Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Granny Smith

There were lots of tourists at the Botanics yesterday and I was intrigued to see that this new feature appeared to be attracting far more attention than any of the rare plants or even the beautiful herbaceous border, which my ghost plans to haunt (benignly) when I'm deceased. It's a wildflower - not really meadow, just a very large, oval flowerbed. Earlier in the summer, there were more poppies - it's been created to mark the centenary of the start of World War 1 - but now it's mainly blue cornflowers and what I think might be corn marigolds and chamomile. It's very pretty, anyway and was much-photographed by many visitors.

I've been typing out my aunt's memories, as dictated to me on our recent Norfolk holiday, and it's been making me think about my grandmother, whom I never really knew. I knew my other grandmother well but as I've previously mentioned, this one left Edinburgh, with my aunt, in 1955 (I think) when I was five. They lived in Cheltenham and then Cambridge and we saw them only every few years.  I asked my aunt what Granny was interested in and she didn't know. Just her family, she thought.

Which seems most unlikely to me, but clearly my aunt hadn't ever really thought about  it and neither had I up till that point. I looked at the family tree that my father spent his retirement compiling, and noticed that Granny's mother had died when Granny was 18. There had been 11 children in the family, though 2 had died in infancy. Another died in 1915, presumably in the war (and I'd never even heard of him). Granny was the third youngest, so things must have been hard when her mother died.

She and my grandfather were married for 10 years before they had children and then they had three within five years (which is odd) so that they were quite old parents - 35 and 45. My father, their eldest child, was in the army for 6 years during the war, which must - now I come to think of it - have been terrible for her. My grandfather died in 1950. And then in the early 1950s, one of her daughters suddenly married someone she hardly knew and went off to be a missionary doctor in Pakistan - home only every 5 years - and the other decided to go down south. So Granny had the choice of living alone near her son and two grandchildren (my brother and me - our house was too small to have her living with us and I don't think my parents would have wanted this anyway) but being parted from her other (unmarried) daughter, or going down south with this daughter. She chose the latter but very soon developed dementia, in her early 70s.

And really it's taken me 64 years to think what it all must have been like for her. Fairly traumatic from time to time, I suppose. Poor Granny.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Thomas and friends

Daughter 1 has made a bag for herself. She's much better at crafty things than I am. I'm still quilting my little cot quilt, however, and enjoying it, though it's a cosy activity on a muggy evening, especially when assisted by a furry companion.

Yesterday we took Grandson to Bo'ness, where there are steam engines (which his grandfather likes) including Thomas The Tank Engine (and friends) lookalikes. He enjoyed this. He also enjoyed scuffing through the gravel at the end of the platform. Various things are fun when you're three.

Then we came back here for tea and a play. He arranged his toy cars in neat lines and looked at them with satisfaction. Then he said, with a guilty beam, "I like playing here without [Granddaughter]!"

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thank you - and another question

Dear helpful commenters,

My technical assistant, Daughter 1, has now removed Sitemeter from my blog. Would those who kindly let me know that they did hear the pesky music (though most people didn't have the problem) now even more kindly let me know whether this has ceased?

Thanks a lot.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Can you tell me...?

Lucille has commented:

"I don't know if anyone else has mentioned but your blog is getting this pesky soundtrack "This is what you want, this is what you get". It seems to be associated with Site Meter. Do you have that? Alice at Sight of Morning took it off her blog and the not very suitable (or nice) music has stopped. Annie had it at Knitsofacto too."

Thanks for mentioning it, Lucille.

Music doesn't come up when I look at my blog. I normally look at it on Internet Explorer though I write the blog on Chrome, since IE will no longer let me load pictures. Mr Life doesn't get music either.

I've quickly looked on line and one thread seems to associate it with Internet Explorer but I am not very computer savvy and am just going out so don't have time to look in depth.

So, can you tell me, o bloggy chums and silent readers, is this music appearing for you? I will get rid of Sitemeter if this is causing a problem - I don't know the song but it certainly doesn't sound like my sort of music and it must be very annoying. On the other hand, it's occasionally interesting to look at Sitemeter and see who's looked at the blog - though this is not vital. (Not that I know how to get rid of Sitemeter; but I expect one of my nearest and dearest could do it for me if I can't.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gently melting

Gosh, it's hot. On Sunday afternoon, we went with the other grandparents to Vogrie Park, where there's a big trike. Son-in-Law 1 obligingly climbed up on it at his son's request.

Little N sat on a big chair but was a bit unsure about it.

He really liked the little train, though, and when he got off, he spontaneously said to the driver, "Thank you very much for a nice ride." Awww.

And again awww.

Today we lurked in the garden, keeping out of the sun. Google claims that it was 23 Celsius, which is 73.4 Fahrenheit, but it felt much hotter to me. It was windless, which is unusual for Edinburgh. Still, the sandpit has an integral sunshade (or umbrella).

I may be prejudiced but I do think she's yummy. Not advanced for her age, I must confess - not really walking or talking to any great extent. But frankly, niceness is more important than genius. The world needs more nice people, as we have recently discussed.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Granny's quilts

When we were visiting my aunt recently, I spent some time writing down recollections of her childhood and the family because she's the only one of the older generation left on my side and when she's gone, there will be no one left to ask.

I mentioned to her that when I was a little girl, we had a patchwork bedcover that always fascinated me. It was made up of large oblong patches of - in some cases - quite rough tweedy material, cross-stitched over the seams. It wasn't exactly pretty - I remember some of the patches were an orangey brown and some green - but it was interesting. I had mentioned this to my mum a few years ago and she said that an uncle on my dad's side was a traveller for a suiting company and that my (paternal) grandmother used to be given obsolete sample books, out of which she made that cover. Of recent years I've thought of the cover but it's long gone, to my regret.

My aunt said that this uncle had been Uncle Tom, her father's brother. "I've got a couple of those covers," she said. "Would you like them?"


These are made of (I would say) ladies' suiting samples. They're much softer and finer material than ours was, and the patterns of the material are less varied, mainly grey but in one quilt with a certain amount of pink.

They're interesting to me on various counts. For one thing, they were made for a practical purpose - true to (I imagine) the origins of patchwork. She wasn't someone like me trying to create something pretty; she was the wife of a foreman mechanic making cheap, warm bedding for her children. For another, they were made by my granny, the one I didn't really know. Until I was 5, she lived in Edinburgh with my aunt, quite near us, but then my aunt moved down south and Granny went with her. I don't remember her before the move and it's only in recent years that it's seemed odd to me that she would move away from her only grandchildren. I suppose she loved her daughter and didn't want to be separated from her - a feeling I understand. In those days, Cheltenham, where they moved, was a long and difficult drive away - there were no motorways and I was a carsick child. We visited twice and she came up occasionally; but she developed dementia when I was in my early teens and I can't really claim to have known her at all.

Her corners aren't all perfect. It must be genetic. Or maybe she was just busy; and was happy enough to make covers for her children's beds without worrying too much about the aesthetics (though the rather dull materials have been set out with at least a bit of thought, I'd say).

Sorry, kids. More stuff for you to deal with after I'm deceased.

Waving to you, Granny. Sorry we never got to chat.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The camper van birthday

Dear little N was 3 yesterday. His other grandparents are visiting and they all came to tea, but since they didn't all fit in the car, Son-in-Law 1 and his father came by bus. There were presents to open, but he patiently waited until his dad and grandfather arrived before opening them. He and Granddaughter played happily with my polished stones. He will with justification be able to tell his children that when he was young he made his own amusement and played with (sticks and) stones.

He got various presents. One of them was ...

... a yellow camper van...

... - a companion piece to one of his favourite toys, which is a red camper van.

He forgot about the unopened presents for a while, though his little sister was quite interested in them.

He also got a scooter and was very serious in his attempts to ride it.

And then there was cake, made by his mum. He was extremely pleased to see it and very happy when we sang "Happy Birthday" ("Again!" - so we sang it again) and quite keen to eat it as well.

Inside it was chocolatey. It's amazing how babies who have never seen chocolate cake can still recognise it and reject their healthy raspberries till they get a bit of it.

Another satisfied customer.

And then when they all went away and we turned on the news, we learned about the awful attack on the Malaysian Airlines plane.

Nationalism. It's madness. People are people; what do labels matter? Kindness matters.

Scotland is having a referendum for independence in September and we will be voting No, for those very sorts of  reasons.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Visiting Auntie E.

We have been away on holiday (thank you for the kind birthday greetings) visiting my aunt in rural Norfolk, who, for reasons I have explained before, lives in this wonderful house.

In short, she and three women friends retired there in 1981 with - crucially - the much younger husband of one of them. Now only my aunt and the much younger husband (not hers) are left. They live fairly separate lives but keep an eye on each other. This is great for her, since she's now 89 and a half. He is, I think, 73, but a very youthful and energetic 73. How good it is for him - I'm not sure. He's a lovely person but we now worry about the burden this may be putting on him - even though my aunt is amazing for 89 and a half. She still gardens every day, drives and otherwise looks after herself - but the chap is always around to help in a crisis and to maintain the fabric of the house. (Couldn't we all do with a much younger husband, not necessarily our own, to perform such functions?)

I think this is the 15th time we've visited - at least every two years since Son was nearly 3. And we feel so privileged: the house is by far the grandest one we've ever known well and the garden is huge and beautiful - about three acres, with an extensive lawn, a small wood, a large walled garden and so on. My aunt has created it in its current form and does much of the maintenance of the flower beds though there are now more weeds than there used to be.

Daughter 2 came down for the weekend from London to brighten the lives of her aged parents and her even more aged great-aunt.

This is the view from one of our bedroom windows...

... and this is the view from the other.

It's paradise. On the other hand, it's a 7 hour drive from here so if there were an emergency, we couldn't get there quickly. And when you're nearly 90, there do tend to be emergencies.

Having coped with both parents and my other aunt through their slow and sad declines, I do worry a lot about what might happen to this (unmarried, childless) aunt. And yet worrying doesn't help and it's hard to plan for an unknown future.

And alas, no: we won't inherit the house! They all agreed to make it over to the much younger husband; which was very sensible.

Every time we visit, I wonder whether it'll be the last time. So far, I'm pleased to say, my aunt appears to be fairly indestructible. She hopes that she eventually falls down dead in the garden and I hope that I do too - in our garden, you understand. I don't want poor old Mr Life to have to drive my stiffening corpse all the way home.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Will you still need me...?

Friday was my birthday*. On Friday night, Daughter 2 came up to Edinburgh; and on Saturday, Son came down and we had a little lunch party, catered by the offspring - very nice and very restful. Well, it would have been restful if it hadn't been for the little people, who are lovely in almost every respect but don't really make for a relaxing afternoon. They both enjoyed playing with the polished stones that used to fascinate Grandson when he was Granddaughter's age - and he was interested in them all over again, though also played with his cars.

Auntie Daughter 2 loves her nephew...

... as does Uncle Son. We went for a walk at Cramond.

Then Son and Daughter 2 leapt around the garden for a bit. Serious professional people, my offspring.

* (You know that Beatles song, "When I'm 64"? And you know how, when you first heard it, you never imagined that you could possibly, ever, actually be 64? Yes, well. Seems I was wrong.)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

A hundred years

I don't know much about E equalling MC squared - happy to take Einstein's word for it - but it's certainly true that something odd happens to time when you get older. Not only does it whizz by, propelling you smartly towards decrepitude and the grave, but something happens in reverse too - to the past.

There's a lot in the media at the moment about World War 1, since it's the centenary of its beginning. When I was little, or even just young, World War 2 was a lo-o-o-ong time ago and World War 1 was more or less prehistory. And now I think: gosh, it was only 100 years ago and that's nothing. Nothing at all. 

It seems to have become more recent; which is a bizarre sensation.

I was born in 1950 and as I've said in this blog before, my parents were both very much affected by the Second World War. My dad was in the Royal Engineers from the ages of 19 - 25 and for most of that time he was overseas, in Egypt doing bomb disposal and then Belgium and Holland, building or destroying bridges. He could easily have been killed. My mother went to London at the age of 17 and was working there during the Blitz and some time thereafter. She too could easily have been killed. Naturally both parents spoke quite a lot about their war experiences - particularly my mother - and yet for a long time I felt that it all happened in such a distant past that there was little connection with my life. Yes, the past: five years before I was born. Really, really, really no time at all.

And my grandparents, of course, lived through two world wars. Two! Twenty-one years apart! Again, hardly any time at all. If the first one had finished in 1993, which feels more or less like yesterday, then what would it feel like for the second to be starting now? Appalling. Unthinkable.

My maternal grandfather, above, was in the Royal Scots and, as I've also mentioned before, was shot in the hand at Gallipoli. Again, he was lucky to survive when so many didn't. He was a printer, a compositor, in civilian life, and operated a sort of typewriter to set the type. His war injury left one of his forefingers permanently bent down to his palm and so from then on, he had only nine working fingers. I thought nothing of it (ancient history...). And as for what he witnessed at Gallipoli and elsewhere - I have no idea. I never asked. I probably didn't want to know.

Anyway. 100 years. Less than twice my life - considerably less than twice my life - and that seems to have passed in a flash. It makes you think. And even though many other people have said much the same thing, it's not till you get older that you really appreciate how short life is and how events are which you used to think were far back in time are actually quite recent.

So. Must get on.