Saturday, August 30, 2014


The other week Daughter 2, Son, Daughter-in-Law, the grandchildren and I went to the Botanics. It was sunny but had been raining earlier. We were on our way to the gate to go home when we came across this soggy piece of grass and Grandson began to run about on it, fascinated by the way that he could make splashes fly up.

He kept on running to and fro,

 and back again
 and back again

and back again, really concentrating on his feet and the way the water, though hardly visible before he got there, splashed up when he ran on the grass.

He was so busy, really interested in this strange phenomenon.

He got remarkably wet, well up his thighs, but didn't notice.

When he started getting wet arms too, we decided that it was time to go.

He did have a lovely time.

Yesterday and today I've had a very similar experience - splashing my feet while stamping - but on a friend's carpet. It was less fun. She's in France and phoned us just as I was about to make the evening meal yesterday to say that the chap that comes in to feed her cats while she's away had discovered water dripping copiously from the flat above hers. We rushed round. We and another friend frantically mopped water while the chap upstairs turned his water off at the mains but it was a losing battle since there was clearly a lot of water in the ceiling space which kept on dripping into the many buckets and other receptacles that we put on the carpet. The carpet was absolutely sodden before we got there, as was the lovely parquet flooring and, worse, it had started to leak through to the room below - our friend's flat is on two floors. We took out all of the furniture and moveables that we could and discussed the possibility of moving the carpet, but it's a big room and a big rug and it was exceedingly heavy - too heavy.

Meanwhile the chap upstairs phoned his insurance company and the other friend phoned the home owner's insurance company and they both got precisely nowhere. If you have an emergency, needing strong men to heave a heavy sodden carpet out into the street and install a dehumidifier on a Friday after 5pm, you can forget it, it seems.

We gave up and, having done all we could, came home again at 9pm laden with dripping towels and bedspreads to wash (poor old Mr L was seriously needing his dinner by then) and then returned this morning. The water had stopped dripping but of course nothing had dried much. Then the chap upstairs got his plumber to come and he discovered a corroded pipe, which he fixed, but this involved more water leaking down for a while.

Our friend's daughter arrived at 1pm - she had been in France too but was coming home today anyway. The insurance company had agreed to send chaps down once she was there and could assure them that this was necessary. She had to be quite forceful but they did send men, who took away the dripping carpet and installed a dehumidifier, but we had to mop up puddles on the soaking parquet and I took away a new load of sodden towels (the same ones that I'd washed and dried the previous evening).

Water. Great in the right place. Horrible in the wrong one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth

Though York is a lovely town to wander around, there are also some wonderful gardens not too far away. A few years ago we went to Breezy Knees, a plant nursery with acres of beautiful - mainly herbaceous - planting round about it. We went back there this time. I did think that most of the best blooms would be over at this time of year but actually there was still lots of colour, such as this wonderful splash of sedum and phlox above.

Herbaceous perennials (which die down every year and then come again the next) are my favourites and though much of my own garden is planted up with these, they're always better in a big space (which I do not have). All gardening books tell you to plant herbaceous plants in drifts - usually of five plants - but alas, this requires huge beds and large vistas.

Look at this: a whole area planted up almost entirely of penstemons of different shades of pink, red and purple with - entirely counter-intuitively (or at least counter my intuition) - some yellow or orange montbretias. I don't like orange and never have orange flowers in my garden - it's the only colour I ban - and wouldn't normally think that yellow would go with pink. But somehow this all looked stunning. It's a bit like patchwork, I'm beginning to see: you don't have to like all the bits of material individually to enjoy the way they combine into a whole.

And I deeply coveted these dahlias. My one dahlia got entirely consumed by slugs or snails this year. I wonder if the gardeners here take stern measures against the slimy pests, or is it just that there are so many flowers that the beasts can't keep up?

Another day we went to Harlow Carr, the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Harrogate. The actual site here is more dramatic than that of Breezy Knees, which is more or less flat. Harlow Carr sweeps down from the road into a valley and then up again into woodland. This time it was more obvious that some of the more spectacular plants had flowered earlier in the season but it was still wonderful.

I loved the colour of these cone flowers, which I've twice tried to grow and never managed to persuade to come back after the winter. I must try again.

Lovely sweeps of planting.

And here's what seems to be this year's very pretty fashion, the wildflower meadow. I hope the wildlife likes it, apart, of course, from the slugs and snails.

Oh, how I love gardens. Soothing, healing, cheering. Lots of hard work, of course but in these cases it was all done by someone else.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Rushing rushing rushing

We came back from York on Thursday but since then things have been crazy busy and still are. The family were here at the weekend, which was nice, celebrating Son's 30th birthday (a week early). How can he be 30 when I'm only 34??

House-swapping is always interesting. You always think things like: how can people live without a colander? No doubt the family in our house wonder how we manage without a lemon zester or a garlic roaster.

It's impossible not to speculate about your swappers - these people had a lot of pictures and objects from foreign countries, such as the ?? Japanese ?? ladies beside the television. Why did they choose these pieces and where did they find them? I was dying to rearrange the blue candlesticks and decanter by spreading them out a bit.

York is very lovely. This is the Shambles, a wee twisty street. It's not really shambolic but as you see below, the name is to do with meat-displaying benches.

Daughter 2 came up from London for the weekend to join us. The grounds of York Museum have these ruins of St Mary's Abbey, completed in 1294.

We liked the way that spare bits of ancient abbey that were lying around have been used to prop up flowerbeds.

Oh, but I missed the little ones. It was so good to see them again.

Grandson: What's the opposite of nothing?
Me: Something.
Grandson: But WHAT?

A good question.

Must get on. More in due course.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Off we go

We're off to York for a week, house-swapping. Whenever we go away, we have to organise people to come and live in our house and look after Cassie the Cat. I hope she appreciates it. Though I wouldn't like you to get the idea that we normally live in chaos and squalor, it's harder work to leave the house in a suitable state for strangers to live in (and potentially look in all your cupboards) than it is just to walk out of the door (though actually I do always bear in mind that we may experience a major event and never get home again).

As far as we can tell, Cassie is always perfectly happy to sprawl on strangers' laps as long as they are a source of heat and can administer the Dreamies.

Right. Better stop doing this and get back to giving the bathroom a final clean.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Scottish summer

On Saturday, Mr L, Daughter 2 and I walked along the beach at Portobello (at the east side of Edinburgh). It was hot. People were doing beachy things: swimming, paddling, making sandcastles ... sheltering from the stiff breezes (well, this is Scotland). Mr L took some photos.

It's been such a lovely summer.

See these Australians who want the summer back? we thought. Well, they can't have it yet. It's ours.

We continued thinking this while eating cake in The Beach House.

Then from Sunday onwards: rain and a chilly wind. I'm wearing a cardigan for the first time in months.

Cassie the Cat is not amused.

(Thanks for the quilty advice, quilting experts. I also enjoyed the non-quilty comments.)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Calling proper quilters

All right, quilty experts: I  have a question. As you see, I have more or less finished hand-quilting my little cot quilt. Boldly - because I am that sort of wild, adventurous person - I didn't quilt it as per the pattern (all straight lines) but instead quilted different sizes of hearts and stars on it - and quite a lot of straight lines. Then maintaining this iconoclastic attitude, I decided to substitute wavy lines (below) for the suggested straight lines on the border.

Now for the question. Would it be completely bonkers to attach the binding before doing the wavy lines? My reason for being tempted to do so is that I do not entirely trust the quarter-inchness of my quarter-inch seams, and if the binding were done first then I'd be more confident that my wavy lines would be in the middle of the border, since the border would then be the finished size.

But then I realise that this isn't what proper quilters do and despite all the evidence, I do aspire to be a sort-of-proper quilter.

I have now bought a quarter-inch foot for my machine but am still not sure that this will rein in my tendency to be slightly inaccurate.

Any advice would be welcome.

Friday, August 08, 2014


Mr Life, Daughter 2 and I were up town this afternoon and paused to listen to the band of the Central Lakes College from Minnesota, who were playing in the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street. A lady handed us a programme and we were very excited to see lots of Scandinavian names, just like in Lake Wobegon. Minnesota sounds very intriguing to us, what with Norwegian bachelor farmers, ice fishing and the Chatterbox Cafe (imagine the accent).

If you're actually from Minnesota, then Edinburgh Castle might seem more unusual to you, though we see it all the time.

While they were playing, three small children came out to the front and started dancing. A compilation from "Star Wars" wasn't the most danceable music, but they seemed to find it perfectly satisfactory.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

What's in the garden?

My computer has been going slow and the brilliant Son-in-Law 1 worked out that it's something to do with the fact that I have 21,000 photos saved on it. Oh no, I said. I can't possibly have that many. But I do. This is a totally impractical number so I must do something about this (what?). Meanwhile he and Mr L have added some memory and the computer is happy again. And I took more photos today; silly me.

Daughter 2 is up from London for over a week, which is lovely except that it'll be all the worse when she goes away again. We all had a happy time in the sandpit this afternoon. (Except Mr L, who took the opportunity for a nap.)

Many of the herbaceous plants are over for the summer but this lily -

- and this phlox - are filling the air with scent.

These Japanese anemones, though they're attempting to take over the whole garden, are so pretty at this time of year (but some of them are DOOMED - I must reassert my authority).

Agapanthus. I know it's a weed in Australia and indeed it's getting quite big and I don't think I could ever dig it out of the garden in my decrepitude, but I love it.

More lilies - what we used to call Turk's heads but I suppose this may be politically incorrect now.

And the agapanthus outside my kitchen window. I'm very proud of its enormous blossoms and fortunately I shall be long gone before it fills the entire flower bed and escapes on to the drive.

I will not burden you or my poor computer with photos of my dahlia and lupin plants, nurtured with love and then stripped bare by slugs/snails. Grrrrr.

Saturday, August 02, 2014


I went to South Queensferry yesterday to have coffee and lunch with my friend Joyce. In many ways we're quite unlike each other (though were both English teachers and met at work) but all the same, we get on well and enjoy an affectionate friendship. It made me think about compatibility - Joyce and I probably wouldn't have picked each other out on a find-a-friend website and indeed, I remember that the first time I saw her, I didn't immediately expect her to become a lasting chum. But we've now shared many years as colleagues and understand each other well in a gosh-that's-not-how-I-feel-but-I-see-what-you-mean sort of way.

I've occasionally speculated about whether Mr L and I would ever have got together if we'd resorted to internet dating, which so many young people seem to do nowadays. We share interests in music, history and ... well, reading, but not the same sorts of books on the whole. We like walking, as long as it's not too energetic. We're fairly cautious and not argumentative and we agree on most things. And we're nice people! But he likes steam trains and cars and engines in general whereas I have no interest in these beyond liking to be conveyed where I'm going. I like gardening and antiques and houses.

On the whole I think it's just as well that I fell for his thick shiny black hair, big blue eyes and kind smile. Shallow, yes. But it seems to have worked.

How about you? How important are/were shared interests for you and your significant other?