Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Well, we've been having a very interesting time. Interesting to us, anyway.

Mr Life's father was one of four children, three boys and a girl. His father, Tom, was the oldest. The next brother, Charlie, went to Australia in 1965. The other brother settled in the south west of Scotland, quite a distance from Tom, and the sister was nearer, in Fife.  Tom seemed to be closer to his Australian brother than the other one (Kenneth), and also quite close to his sister, Margaret. However, when Tom died, in 1984, there wasn't a lot of contact beyond Christmas cards between Mr Life's mother (who didn't drive, so couldn't easily get to other towns under her own steam - and anyway didn't keep good health) and the rest of that side of the family. When she died, in 1991, I continued the Christmas card communication but it wasn't much more than that. When Kenneth died, we went to his funeral and met the cousins again, but just the once. 

Having no first cousins of my own, I always rather regretted not really knowing this side of the family. We do see, fairly regularly, Mr L's cousins on his mother's side.

All the older generation of Mr Life's father's family have now died, but when the Australian son of Charlie - also Charles - decided to come with his wife to visit Scotland, we invited them to stay with us. We did some sightseeing and also arranged a reunion of all the cousins and any available spouses and offspring at our house on Sunday. One cousin is too ill to come and another couldn't make it, but above you can see the assembled gathering. 

It was lovely to see them all. Really none of the cousins knew each other at all well (apart from the two who're brother and sister) so it was all slightly stressful - though very good fun.

The first cousins in the photo, by the way, are the two on the left in the back row and the two on the right in the front row (if you don't count Son, who's in the blue t-shirt, sitting on the arm of the sofa). 

Then yesterday, the Australians and we met up with the cousin who couldn't make the reunion the previous day. She brought one of her sons. The little gnomelike person in the middle is me. Mr Life's family are tall; I come from a family of short people.

It's very intriguing to try to spot similarities in the next generation - those who share a set of great-grandparents. Mr L's father and his siblings bore a strong physical likeness to each other. The Australian young folk, all male, also look (judging by photos) strikingly like these siblings - their grandfather, great-uncles and great-aunt - resembling them more than they do their own parents. The young man on the left of the picture above, however, and his brother (whose photo we also saw) don't look like that side of their family at all and are both very sporty, which most of us couldn't claim to be. (This young chap and Mr Life share the same first name - which was the maiden surname of Mr L's great-grandmother, so really quite remote from the sporty young chap - but both were given it as a family name). Our children resemble my side of the family more - though of course they're a mixture.

The Australian cousin and his wife kept saying how much Mr L reminded them of his (the cousin's) father, particularly in gesture and expression - even though Mr L hardly knew his uncle and never saw him after he emigrated.

The brother of the young man on the left of this picture is married to a girl who was adopted from an orphanage in Lahore (and brought to England at the age of 5), so their children look - as you might imagine - totally different from the Scottish and Australian/Scottish lot. We also saw photos of them.

I suppose that sharing a set of great-grandparents is quite a distant relationship really. But our children know the equivalent relations on Mr Life's mother's side very well, whereas they would have walked past all these other cousins without knowing who they were. And there are still others of our children's generation who didn't make the reunion, of whom this is still the case.

Many old photos were exchanged, many half-remembered stories were compared - as I say, it was very interesting indeed.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


We have Australian visitors. Granddaughter really likes her kangaroo glove puppet.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sometime(s) too hot the eye of heaven shines

Not a lot worth reporting is happening around here. I do like glass.

The children and I went to the Botanics. I reflected that the Edinburgh skyline is more striking when the trees are bare. On the other hand, it's then winter.

Today it was very hot (by Edinburgh standards). This is a pity since we're about to have Australian visitors, by which time it will undoubtedly be raining. Grandson wore a sunhat but declined to take off his jumper. "I like being warm," he said, as he ran around. He certainly must.

I'm looking forward to Granddaughter's being able to walk (it's about time) but on the other hand the children will then probably run in opposite directions, so it's nice and easy to have her in the buggy.

We did also admire the flowers. Well, I did. These are primulas of some sort. I could have read the label if Grandson had paused for longer.

Baby mallards. I know it's not a great picture but they're the little row of blobs parallel to the line of stones. They scooted about on the water, peeping away and eating invisible things. Very cute.

Spring. So nice.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Helping Granny

Grandson likes to arrange his cars in long lines, inching them forward one by one past his Duplo traffic lights. Granddaughter likes to crawl towards his cars like a small but determined walrus, seize a car, chew it and then purloin his lights.

He knows he's not supposed to push her away. So now he says, "Let's play on the stairs," and opens the door. She trundles enthusiastically after him. He climbs a few stairs. She follows and so do I because she's better at going up than going down and I don't want her to fall. He then trots downstairs again, runs into the sitting room and shuts the door, leaving his little sister happily climbing the stairs with me. He's not daft, that lad.

The other day he was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking some milk. I went to the sink for something and when I turned round, he had raised the plastic lift-up flap on the milk carton and poured a little experimental splosh on to the table.  "I got the top off all by myself," he said with satisfaction. He and I looked at the little pool of milk. And then, clearly practising for a career as a spin doctor, he added cheerfully, "I'm helping Granny."

Darling little N, you'll never know how much you're helping Granny just by being you.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Two of them

We were playing in the sandpit. Granddaughter got really quite sandy.

Grandson looked to the side. "There's a woodmouse," he said.

I was surprised but impressed at his detailed knowledge of species of mouse. I looked but could see no mouse.

"Where?" I asked.

He pointed. To a woodlouse.


That got me thinking about plurals. I suppose the plural of woodlouse is woodlice. Certainly the plural of headlouse is headlice. But how about the sort of story in which a woman says, "He's a louse. But in my opinion, all men are...".  Surely not "... lice"? Might it be "... all men are louses"? I don't read that sort of story enough to be sure.

(Note that this is a fictional piece of fiction. I don't myself hold this view of men. And in Scotland we usually call woodlice slaters, thus avoiding the plural problem. I believe that they are pillbugs in America.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Better than working

It's Mr L's birthday so we went for a morning walk at Flotterstone, just outside the city.

The gorse is such a splash of colour, though very prickly.

Broom, behind this red campion, is much kinder to the hands.

The birthday boy was trying out his fancy new camera. He does like a gadget. I'm sure he took much better photos than I did.

 But everything looked pretty - till - shock, horror -

we reached the reservoir. It looked like this (above) - while it usually looks... like that (below). Coincidentally, I seem to have taken a picture of much the same view, the last time that we walked there.

And the view above (today) is from much the same position as this one to the right (not today). They seem to be working on the dam and have allowed much of the water to drain away. Since this reservoir is where Edinburgh gets its supplies, I trust that they'll get it fixed soon!

This part was prettier - you could almost convince yourself that it was a beach. But it's usually covered in water.

There were drifts of Spanish bluebells. It's a pity that they're a pernicious weed, since they do look lovely.

 Then we had lunch at the Flotterstone Inn. Happy Birthday, Mr L!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Not being Anna

Thimbleanna very kindly sent me a cot quilt kit some time ago. As ever, it took me a while to pluck up courage, and to find the time, to start it. (I'm certainly not the sort of person who can just do a block a night between having a bath and brushing my teeth. I need Long Periods of Free Time and then I have to wash the kitchen floor, email everyone I know and do some weeding first.) I did some cutting out and then life got in the way and it was some weeks before the wind was in the right direction and the constellations aligned appropriately for the rest of the cutting to happen. (And then of course I did some of it twice, having forgotten where I'd got to.)

Because my last (only) quilt's corners didn't all meet perfectly, I was extremely careful with the accuracy of my cutting. I thought I'd been careful last time but - hmm.

This is what it should eventually look like.

I've now assembled three of the nine-patch squares, or at least I've almost finished the third. I'm having a little break because I've just sewn one patch on back to front and am not pleased with myself. Anyway, even though I feel I'm being terribly careful with my quarter-inch seams, I can tell you now that my corners are still not all perfect. I'm ironing the seams of the strips in opposite directions and nestling them together but by the time they're sewn, some of them are - well, not horribly bad but not Anna-good. Is there a magic solution? Or does one just need to be a different person? (And would this different person also find playing the piano easier than I do?)

The accuracy of the cot quilt doesn't matter that much because I don't know of any impending babies and even if I did, I can't imagine any baby noticing slight imperfections in the joins. But it's annoying to try hard and still not get it quite right.

Son came home last night, which was nice, but now he's gone away again. However Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1 and the grandchildren are coming back from Worcester tomorrow so I'm looking forward to seeing them.

And so another week begins.

Right, I'm off to rip that patch off and sew it on the right way. And then do some piano practice.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Thinking of mum

The Edinburgh family are down south. Yesterday we got on a train and went up north, to Aberdeen.

There was no special reason for our trip except that I had never been there before. Scotland is a small country with not many cities or big towns and it seemed silly to have visited Rome and Boston and Copenhagen but never Aberdeen, two and a half hours away on the train. It's bigger than I expected. It's built largely of granite, so is pleasantly pale grey and slightly sparkly.

This is Marischal College, now the headquarters of Aberdeen City Council but still the property of the university. It's a striking building with all those pointy bits.

We wandered about a lot and visited the art gallery and two museums. This is a very poor photograph of a very lovely painting of Japanese anemones. I seriously covet this painting, though in fact it would be very difficult to persuade Japanese anemones to stand up like that - an example of the difference between art and reality. But the painting of the petals is very realistic. I wish I had not planted Japanese anemones in my garden, however, since they are trying to establish themselves as a small forest. I have spent this afternoon heaving (some of) them up by the roots. Another day soon I must tackle the lily of the valley. Destructive gardening is not my favourite sort but it's necessary or the (beautiful) thugs would take completely over.

Today was quite hot, at least for those battling with nature. The whole garden was perfumed by lilac. Cassie kept me company though, being black and furry, she kept having to seek out the shade. As did I.

We're having a visit from an Australian cousin of Mr L later in the month, with his wife. At that point, the garden will be at its most boring: all the spring flowers will be over and most of the summer ones won't yet be flowering. I realise that the cousins won't have come from Australia simply to admire my garden, but it's a pity. The cousin left Scotland at the age of about ten, I think, and hasn't been back since, so it'll be interesting for the family to meet up. Mr L has a selection of cousins, only two of whom (from the other side of his famliy) we see at all regularly, whereas I am totally cousinless, which I consider a major deprivation. We're having another two cousins to lunch to meet up with Charles from Australia; and our offspring will be here too. I'm looking forward to it.

This is my mother's birthday. I miss her a lot - not so much the very old lady (though I'm so sad that she can't see the children - she would absolutely love them and did adore the one-year-old Grandson, whom she did see) but the slightly younger version of her. She was a very wise person and good fun. We used to collapse in giggles a lot. No one will ever love you as much as your mum does (if you have a normal mum - I realise that there are exceptions). Of course, she was old and we must all die. But I wish she could have had a few more years of good life.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


We looked after the grandchildren for the day to allow their parents to get ready to go down south to visit Son-in-Law 1's parents. As we so often do, we went to the Botanic Gardens, where there were lots of lovely flowers which we didn't really get a chance to look at. Grandson moves fast.

There was a heron on the duck pond. It was catching little fish, which I've never seen happening before. This seemed a bit tough on the fish but we were impressed at the speed at which the heron moved. One second it was statue-still and the next it was swallowing its lunch.

Granddaughter did her gnome impression.

Grandson visited his favourite tree, which is many-stemmed with a wide canopy sweeping the ground. "This is my house," he said, going in and out the "front door" and the "back door". "I don't have a bed in it," he said thoughtfully. Then he beamed and said, "I live at number 17, Tree." (His actual address is at number 17.)

As usual, his tractor-finding radar worked well.

By just before tea-time they had temporarily run out of steam.  (Their meal reinvigorated them.)

If you think they look exhausted, you should have seen Mr Life.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Mainly flowers

It's lilac time again. In our back garden we have a ... can I call it a hedge?... anyway, a row of lilac of various colours which has over the years been colonised by various other shrubs; thus making it, I fondly like to imagine, mixed hedging which is good for bird life. I wouldn't recommend lilac as a hedging plant, since it suckers like mad and generally has an ambition to take over the whole garden, which is not large. So we have to hack it seriously down every few years, which means that the following year there are no blooms. Thus we had none last year but this year there are lots, and I just love the scent.

I love it partly because it's wonderful and anyone would, but partly also because of its associations. There was a lilac in my childhood garden and another line of them at the bottom of the garden of our first married house and the scent is very evocative of those times. There weren't many children living near us when I was a little girl and (in my mind at least) I spent quite a lot of time wandering round the garden and looking at the plants. This sounds more pathetic than it seemed at the time. I feel I was quite happy doing so.

I am a compulsive word-association singer. Someone just has to mention Glasgow and I start carolling "I belong to Glasgow" or buses and I'm off on "The wheels on the bus". The sight of lilacs makes me sing "It's lilac time again, you're going to leave me", which is not a cheery ditty, or I imagine it's not, though this is all I know of the words (which I may have got wrong) though I can finish the verse by la-la-la-ing. I've just Googled it and I can't find it, or not at a cursory glance. I can't think that I made it up. At least it's temporarily removed from my head the part of Mozart's "Requiem" that's been going round and round in it since my second choir's concert on Saturday. The Mozart is a greatly superior piece of music but I imagine that Mr L could do with a change from that particular one page, especially as it's not at all the easiest bit to sing.

It's also amaryllis time. What a colour.

We had a lovely lunch in Lundin Links yesterday to celebrate Mr L's aunt's 90th birthday. This is the view from their sitting room, overlooking their large and lovely garden, the golf course and the sea. I have view envy. His aunt is extremely well-preserved for 90 and plays bridge three times a week, which is very impressive. Unfortunately she's an aunt by marriage, so we don't get any of her genes, but her husband, Mr L's actual uncle, is still pretty good for 88. Mr L's parents died when he was 36 and 43, and this aunt and uncle have been very good to us and the children, especially since then, so it's lovely to see them still flourishing.