Monday, June 30, 2014

Fun in the sun

It's been a fun day. The children and I went to the Botanics, as we so often do. We did a lot of walking around (at least, Grandson and I did - Granddaughter has not yet embraced walking as her favoured method of locomotion) but we also sat on a bench for a while.

When we came home, Grandson helpfully watered my outdoor plant pots.

Then there was a bit of what my father used to call "noise and nonsense". Granddaughter decided to try on her Grandpa's sunhat.

It suits her.

It suited Grandson too...

... but his sister wanted it back.

Later I was surprised to hear that it had been raining at Wimbledon.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Jekyll and ... solanum

Granddaughter is a dear little soul and on the whole very jolly. But occasionally, like any other baby, she is less impressed with life and lets us know this. It's comical but at the same time a bit stressful when babies are suddenly distraught - as if their entire worlds had crumbled - when you restrain them from putting their hands on the hot oven door or dropping a heavy glass paperweight on their foot. They yell louder than you would think possible; they weep hot tears; they dribble copiously from their tragic mouths.

Once, somewhere, I remember reading about a chap's reaction on seeing a baby - it might have been his own, newly-born one - and not finding it particularly attractive. As far as I remember, the chap said that he was handed "a sort of roaring tomato". And this describes rather well Granddaughter's instant change from being a jocular, tolerant sort of person to being - well, a roaring tomato. (She's got quite rosy cheeks, rather like her Granny (sorry, little L)).

Most of the time she's lovely, though. Yesterday I took her with me to have coffee with friends and she just sat on the sofa beside me the whole time, beaming and playing with her toys. So yummy.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cassie Cat likes it

I've finished the baby quilt top. It was a kit (given to me kindly by my quilting guru, Thimbleanna - ). This made it easier from the point of view of choosing the materials - they were all provided, as were somewhat gnomic instructions. On the other hand, I had to do the cutting out and when at one point I got this slightly wrong, I panicked in case there wasn't going to be enough material to finish it. However, the suppliers of the kit had kindly allowed a bit of spare for idiots.

I did struggle to get all the corners perfect(ish) but just resorted to ripping out and redoing on occasion. Several occasions. In fact, quite a lot. I'm sure Thimbleanna doesn't have to do this.

Yesterday there was an interview on the radio with David Blunkett (politician) and he said that he was "extremely proud" of various bits of legislation he'd got through. It made me think: have I ever done anything that I'm extremely proud of? Hmm. No. Well, there are the children, but I wouldn't claim to have "done" them. However, I'm quite pleased with the quilt top. Now I get to (hand) quilt it, which I enjoyed doing the last time. (My sewing machine and I are not best buddies. We maintain a grudging relationship.)

The quilt is not destined for any particular baby. Maybe I'll have to keep it for the first great-grandchild - whom I don't expect ever to meet, alas. But the relevant parent can tell her (I think it has to be for a girl, though possibly pink may have become totally acceptable for boys by then) that her ancient great-granny made it with love. And a certain amount of unpicking.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Malleny, Balerno

Thank you for your comments about where you would like to live. How encouraging that many of you are happy where you are. And we're fairly happy where we are; but would quite like to lift the house up and plonk it down in Portobello/Joppa, near the sea. Today the children and I took a walk along Portobello Prom. Grandson likes bollards - among other street furniture.

Granddaughter was more contemplative.

He runs ahead but always turns round to make sure I'm following.

My cot quilt is making progress. Slowly. It wouldn't be so slow if I didn't keep having to rip bits out to make the corners meet more accurately. I'm being so careful but still have to make adjustments. Grr. How do the rest of you manage to get perfect results every time?

Three strips joined; four to go.

Yesterday Mr L and I went to Malleny, a National Trust garden on the outskirts of the city.

 It was full of colour.

Who can tell me what these pink plants (above) are? The nearer one looks like campion - it has campion-like leaves, which leads me to suspect that it's ... campion. But I'd never seen it as a bright pink, double flower. And the leaves of the one behind it, with balls of blossom, look like what we'd call Sticky Willy - and are actually slightly adhesive, like Willy (goosegrass) himself. . Again, I'd never seen it in this pretty flowering form. Anyone?

We often get the garden to ourselves but this time we coincided with a coach trip. However, it was pleasant to see so many people enjoying the flowers. Also, we felt positively youthful in comparison to most of the members of the party.

I do like lupins.

Monday, June 16, 2014


I really have nothing worthwhile to say. Life is... just the same: good in some ways, but with some real sadnesses in it too which I find impossible to shake off. So - irrelevantly to all this - we've been watching after-dinner programmes about people who build their dream homes, which always makes me want to go off and buy a piece of land and have a house built.

It would have to be in Scotland. I could move away from Scotland only to be nearer all the children, which with one here, one down south and one up north is impossible. And even then... it would be hard. Ideally this house would be in the country (I ignore tiny problems like having to be near a bus service when we get too decrepit to drive) with a view of distant mountains in one direction and the less-distant sea in the other. It would have a garden of about an acre, mainly laid to lawn (in slow-growing grass...) but with a wonderful herbaceous border - mature but again slow-growing. The house itself would be in the Arts and Crafts style - but new, so that it wouldn't need major repairs. Perhaps Lutyens would like to come back from the dead to design it for me; or Frank Lloyd Wright, maybe? Or possibly Daughter 2, come to that, who is still alive - an advantage in an architect. I'd like a double-height room somewhere and also a cosy study with a view over the garden and I'd like it to have internal views from one part of the house to the other, but also nice private little spaces. And lots of wood, preferably with interesting shapes.

Not much to ask really.

Being more realistic, I'm sometimes tempted to move to a small town, maybe North Berwick or Haddington, which are in East Lothian, 15 or 20 miles away from the city. But really, with Daughter 2 in London and Son in Perth, neither of these is practical if we want our departed children to be able to visit us reasonably easily. We might, however, move back to the east side of Edinburgh, where I come from - near the sea. But can we be bothered? Or will we just stay where we are? Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1 and the grandchildren live nearer that side and the journey across to them, through the city centre, is somewhat tedious, so it would be lovely to be nearer them. Thus any move that we might make is dependent on where they are - and they're considering moving house too (though they're not decisive people and there are various other factors affecting any decision they might think of making). So... who knows?

I do feel a bit restless, though.

Where would you live, if you could choose within not-too-impossible reason?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Craiglockhart Dell

We had the children on Tuesday afternoon. This picture gives a misleadingly motionless impression of Grandson.

Most of the time he was doing this.

and this. 

The retired life is pleasant enough but somewhat lacking in incident. This morning we cut the grass and then Cassie and I mooched around the garden for a while.

The alliums are at their best at the moment

and the paeonies are coming into bloom, which usually coincides with wet weather so that the blooms get ruined. Take your umbrellas with you tomorrow if you're anywhere near here.

Mr Life and I then took a walk in Craiglockhart Dell. This is land that used (200 years ago) to be part of the Redhall Estate, which belonged to the Inglis family, for whom Mr L's great-aunt (less than 200 years ago) was housekeeper in their other house some distance away.

This folly was built in 17-something. You can see the remains of sea-shells on the ceiling, presumably put there as decoration. We've seen this in other little buildings like this; indeed it's been done in the wee building put up to commemorate the Queen Mother at the Botanics, in her memorial garden.

We could have walked much further but I was feeling a bit weary so we'll come back another day. We were reminding ourselves what it was like with the thought of bringing the children here, but there were various sets of steps so it's not very buggy-friendly.

We didn't see the kingfisher or the deer but there were various people with big dogs. I can see that it's a highly suitable place to let big dogs run around  but Grandson is somewhat alarmed by dogs that are as tall as he is, so - we'll bring the children in a few years.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Fred Bason

Two terrible photos of Grandson - one so that Gramps in Worcester can see him eating an ice cream (Son-in-Law said that Gramps would like this) - contrary to appearances, he was enjoying it very much -

-  and the other to show Nanny and Gramps the post-haircut effect. It was rather shorter than we expected (having been much longer than ever before) but at least it'll be a while before he needs to have it cut again.

I've been reading Fred Bason's third diary. I read a lot of published diaries but I'd never heard of him till I read a reference somewhere to "the Cockney diarist". We checked him out and found that he'd written four volumes of diaries. Some are really quite expensive to buy on Amazon but we found volume three quite cheaply. It contained this postcard. If you Google him, it turns out that he wrote on lots of these postcards and inscribed lots of volumes of his books. He seems to have understood marketing. He was quite well-known in his day (he was born in 1908 and died in 1960 something, I think) for broadcasting as well as writing.

He was brought up in what was then a slum area of London, Walworth, and went to work in a factory but hated it. He was a bookish boy and wanted to be a writer and bookseller. His parents gave him absolutely no encouragement. They were both over 40 when he was born, an only child. His mother often told him that she wished he'd never been born. When he was 15 he bought some books from a jumble sale, took them to a second-hand bookshop and sold them for a profit of £1 (quite a lot of money, then) and decided that he would indeed be a bookseller.

He realised that he would get more for books if they were inscribed by the author, so he tracked authors down and got them to write in their books - often repeatedly. He also collected (to sell) autographs on bits of paper, from authors, playwrights and actors - again, often repeatedly - so he got to know many writers and actors, some of whom were obviously very decent to him. He was advised to keep a diary if he wanted to write - and he did.

His diary is interesting and slightly naive. He seems to have been very unselfconscious about asking for his inscriptions and autographs and frequently writes about how he would like to have a wife. He describes various unsuccessful dates with women. He was presumably a bit odd and I'm not sure that people read his diaries for the reasons that he thought they did, but I can't help admiring his drive and initiative.

Sadly, he never did marry. When he died, he left £22,000, which was a LOT of money in the 1960s. (Our first house cost £9,300 in 1974.)

I've asked friends and no one had heard of him (I wondered if it was just me, but no). But there are various blog posts about him which come up in Google.

I salute you, Fred.

Saturday, June 07, 2014


Daughter-in-Law, her sister and Son this afternoon, after doing a 10K run.

How can these people be related to me?

I regret to say that I have never run 10K but am delighted to say that I have never been that muddy. Urgh.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Blossom and flourish etc

It's a busy time for those of us who insist on making their gardens as labour-intensive as possible. Mine is small but still takes a lot of fiddling with. If I could wave a magic wand, I'd supernaturally empty all the flower beds and plant them up again, but lacking the wand (and being nearly 64 with a dodgy back) I have to keep hacking at the thug plants individually in a pathetic and ineffectual manner to stop them spilling out into the street and taking over the neighbours' gardens. I've just come in, at half past ten at night - at this time of year it's easily light enough outside at that hour to see what one's doing. It's also light enough to see the snails and slugs as, licking their lips in anticipation, they happily make their way towards my favourite plants - which are also their favourites but for different reasons. I lack the resolution to jump up and down on them, which would be a good way of stopping them BUT HORRIBLY SQUIDGY - UGH.

I find it hard to throw bits of plants away, so there are lots of pots sitting outside with flourishing little plants in them and I really don't know where I think I'm going to put them in my full garden.

Why do I make life so difficult for myself? I should be a cat. They don't bother with horticulture. Or piano lessons. Or patchwork.

Dr Son has just been made a partner in the GP practice where he's been working as a locum, which is - well, it's very good, of course. It seems no time since he was learning to crawl. I look at the grandchildren and think - it'll seem even less time till they're up and off. Life is brief. We watched various D Day programmes today and I thought about my parents: Dad who was in the war in the Middle East and Europe and Mum who was in London during the Blitz. They would have been so interested to see the commemorative programmes.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

We've been in the Lake District for a long weekend with our offspring, two out of three of their spouses, the grandchildren, my brother and his wife, my niece, my nephew and my nephew's girlfriend. The day before we left, poor old Mr L had to visit the Infirmary with a dislocated finger. Fortunately he decided he could still drive. I can also drive, but am not happy doing so at over 50 miles an hour. Mr L prefers to go faster than that on motorways and so do the drivers behind me.

This was the view from our bedroom.

Most of us got ample opportunity to admire the beautiful gardens when pursuing the energetic Grandson as he trotted from the deep pond at one side of the lawn to the deep pond at the other.

It was all very nice, though some of us found it a bit exhausting.

This is Blackwell, a LOVELY Arts and Crafts house which we've visited before and WHICH I WANT. It's full of lovely interesting spaces and details.

Grandson, so far a philistine, preferred his toy camper van.

We met a baby owl.

As I said, it was all good fun but a trifle wearing. Grandson was so tired on the last day that he slept through dinner.