Friday, October 31, 2014


We were walking along here the other week. As you can maybe tell, it was once a railway line and the raised bit at the side was once a platform, or at least I assume that it was. Now the line makes a good cycle track / footpath, like so many of the discontinued railway lines in the city. It's a peaceful place these days.

I don't believe in ghosts (even at Hallowe'en) but I can't help imagining those trains, thundering up and down where now we walk or cycle; and the passengers on them, sitting on ghostly seats much higher than the current path, reading their newspapers. Wouldn't it be interesting if we could somehow see shades of the people who were once there, or in our houses - or even see our younger selves in places that we still go? For example, can you almost see the spectral Mr L, some years ago, cycling along the platform on the left? - or to be more accurate, cycling off that platform on the left and tearing his shorts, stem to stern, on the spectral bushes. He had to cycle home again in what had effectively become a mini kilt.

In my teens and early twenties, we lived in what had been a farmhouse. It was about 100 years old when my parents bought it in 1963 and I used to think about the Douglas family, who were the farmers when my parents were children. The land around had been sold off for housing by the time we were there, but I would look out of the windows and imagine shadowy horses and cornfields and farm workers among the modern lawns and bungalows. I always wondered who had had my bedroom and whether they'd perhaps died there. Not that there was a spooky feeling in the house. It was just our home, decorated by my parents, but I was very aware that it was only ours for the moment. For some years now it's been someone else's home and I don't suppose that they're aware of my young self, hanging nebulously around in the right-hand back bedroom, gazing out of the window - when I was supposed to be doing my homework - and thinking about a tall young man with black hair (yes, the future Mr Life!)

Our current house was built about 1930. The other day, a chap who used to live in it passed down the street and chatted to my neighbour. We've been here for 25 years and the previous people lived in it for 20, so his family must have been in residence before that. I've met him too, years and years ago. I was gardening and he came and looked at the house from the street. We talked and I invited him in but he didn't take me up on it. According to my neighbour, he lives in Cumbria (which I remembered him saying) and occasionally, if he's in Edinburgh, he checks on the house. Just as well the garden was tidy.

We're so temporary, we humans. Strange. Just as well, really. We need to make room for the young ones. But goodness, it doesn't seem long at all since we were the young ones.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Here be...

It's not quite Hallowe'en, but if you're three - or one - and someone buys you a dragon suit, you obviously have to wear it.

It perhaps isn't the very most flattering garment for Granddaughter, who isn't exactly svelte... but she doesn't care.

It makes her very cuddly, as Son and Daughter-in-Law established when they visited last weekend.

Friday, October 24, 2014

I have laboured mightily and brought forth a - little quilt

Well, Thimbleanna, you thought it would never happen, did you? Yes, I've at last finished the cot quilt that you sent me in kit form. Ta-da! I did have to cut out lots of little bits of material, sew them together (some of them several times till I got it right) and then go on lots of holidays between various of the stages. Then I decided to ignore the quilting instructions and do my own thing (seemed like a good idea at the time), including doing a wavy ribbon design on the border which was a TREMENDOUS fiddle. 

But it's done; and approved by the Quilt Inspector. You'll be pleased to hear that the Furry Quilt Inspector also thought it was... ok (shrug) ... though she moved off it guiltily when I went to get my camera. 

There are no babies in the offing and the current babies have their own cot quilts. So I'll hang on to it till I can think of someone to give it to.

 Perversely, I think my favourite fabric is the one on the back.

Lynley in Australia seems to manage to sew a quilt per week - I am barely exaggerating - - but one a year seems to be my rate of progress. I have no idea what I do the rest of the time; but it seems to fill up my days.

Just like five-year-old who looks scornfully at a four-year-old ("What a baby!") - I now look at my simple Christmas quilt from last year and think - ah, that must have been easy. Though at the time... .

So thank you so much, Anna, for forcing me to try something slightly more complicated (though it was all just squares and rectangles. Not really complicated).

What next? I've acquired a small stash of fabrics that I bought just because I liked them... a slippery slope, I'm sure... and of course I have some Christmas material left over from last year. But I think it'll all have to wait, since I certainly don't have time to do anything much before this Christmas. Lynley will make another six or seven intricate quilts by then; Anna will produce one or two quilts, also of amazing complication and beauty; I shall possibly get the garden tidied up and a bake couple of cakes. Each to her own.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I haven't seen the grandchildren since last Thursday so am pining for them. The (lovely) other grandparents were visiting last weekend and they were all busy; and then Grandson has Things To Do in the mornings at the beginning of the week and nursery in the afternoons. However, I'm hoping to see them briefly tomorrow. They live half an hour away, which is not something I'm really complaining about since if my other children ever have children, we'll not be able to see much of them at all; but even half an hour away means that going there to pick them up and bring them back here is an hour's journey, which takes up a lot of a morning when we have to return the lad, lunched, for nursery at 12.35.

While pining, I've been reading James Boswell's Edinburgh Journals 1767-1786, which are really fascinating. Boswell (the Scottish chap who wrote the life of Samuel Johnson) was extremely candid in his diary, detailing all (at least, one hopes it's all) his encounters with very naughty ladies and the diseases that he catches from them, as well as discussing his general feelings at length. He kept getting drunk and then swearing that it was the last time he was going to do this. He suffered from frequent depression, or "hypochondria", as he calls it, when he felt very dark and as if life wasn't worth living, but somehow managed to maintain a career as a lawyer - it helped that his father gave him an allowance so that he didn't have to live on his earnings alone. At other times, his mood lifted and he felt very happy and sociable.

His wife was a saint. Maybe she didn't have much choice; but still, she seemed to manage to forgive him all his transgressions - or at least he thought so. He did realise how lucky he was, which is something.

For example:
28 June: Hard drinking. Home sadly intoxicated, even insane. Vexed most valuable spouse. Was almost unconscious.
29 June: Awaked miserably vexed and ill. Saw myself a depraved creature. Lay till four. Wife had kindly made soup and chicken for me.
2 July: Ill from drinking. Very low and desponding.
4 July: Very wet. Drank too much. Drunk. Slept town. Felt Miss Montgomerie.
9 July: Night wandered and had handkerchief stolen.
11 July: Marriage of Betty Montgomerie. Supped at Montcrieff's. Drank too much. Wandered. James's Court. Dolly.
12 July: Awaked very ill. Wife had sat up late for me. She the worse of it. Had been alarmed with her bad health.
13 July: Was made very serious by my wife's bad health. Felt a kind of amazement when I viewed the possibility of losing her.
15 July: Wandered evening. Wife waiting at entry. Sad vexation.

And so on. And yet he's so repentant and so determined to be a better man that I can't help quite liking him sometimes. He was a very fond father and was often hurt because his own father didn't seem to take much interest in him. I imagine that Boswell senior was somewhat fed up with James. Edinburgh was a small place and I'm sure that his father, the Laird of Auchinleck, heard only too much about James's exploits and probably just wanted to pretend that it wasn't happening.  Still, this doesn't excuse the father asking one day what James's youngest son was called - bad enough - and then forgetting that the child had recently died!

What he says about Edinburgh and Edinburgh society is also very interesting, at least to an Edinburgh person. The New Town was just being built and he had a "country house" beside the Meadows - a park which is now in the middle of town. He was a bit scathing about people like David Hume, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson - now thought of as huge figures of the Enlightenment. Meeting them over a meal, he noticed when they were a bit vague or had what seem like dangerously radical ideas. I suppose it's difficult to regard someone that you see pootling around the place as historically important.

Anyway, I'm now going to read all the other published Boswelliana - which is quite a lot. Such fun.

This is what the Meadows look like now. We drove though them the other day and I thought about Boswell.

He'd have been surprised.

 He did write his diaries with a thought of posterity

but I don't suppose he expected posterity to have cars. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Walking in East Lothian

It was such a beautiful day today, as warm as summer. We walked in East Lothian, to the east of Edinburgh, with friends from church -

between ploughed fields,

through a wood where shadows striped the path,

 over fallen leaves

which crunched beneath our feet,

through a farmyard - the pink stone and tiled roofs so typical of the East Lothian countryside -

beside fields newly sown with winter wheat

or full of leeks which are ready to harvest

and down to the sea

where the sand was yellow, the sea was blue, the breakers were energetic and the wind was persistent,

with the Bass Rock in the distance, glittering white and home to 150,000 gannets, lots of guillemots, razorbills, puffins, cormorants, eider duck and various types of seagull. The whiteness is... the result of all those birds.

And then we didn't go on to this headland but instead turned back inland

through the woods

and towards the cars, then to

a tea shop, where we replaced the calories that we'd burned off over the last six miles. A lovely day.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


We took the little ones to the museum today.

Grandson always looks back to check that we're following but Granddaughter just heads confidently off into the distance.

One has to pursue her.

Then we came home and they played very assiduously. Granddaughter seems as keen on vehicles as her brother does, though maybe it's just that there are a lot to play with in our house.

Grandson spent a long time watching this snail. It makes my heart sing to watch him discovering the world.

He also gazed long at the little fountain: at how it creates bubbles between the pebbles and how the pebbles darken when they're wet. "Why do waterfalls make a noise?" he enquired. Well, umm... the water makes a noise when it hits more water, or rocks. "But why?" Errr... .

He asks "Why?" so much that this is one of his little sister's words. "Teddy," she says. "Pussy. Doggy. Book. Why?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Walking into town

Yesterday we went to the exhibition of American Impressionists at the Modern Art Gallery. I'm ashamed to say that we had never heard of quite a few of them, including the splendidly-named Childe Hassan and John Henry Twatchtman. They seemed jolly good to us, just as good as the French ones (though we wouldn't claim to be experts).

Then we walked into town through the top part of Dean Village, enjoying the autumnal air.

Here you can see the backs of some of the New Town houses. They must have a good view.

That red makes a statement.

It's always intriguing to look through narrow spaces at a sudden view.

These red roofs are almost worthy of Switzerland.

Up to the New Town itself: Georgian terraces.

This is the Dean Bridge, over which people occasionally jump, alas. It's a long way down.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Yesterday was a good day. In the morning I finished binding my little cot quilt, reflecting how ingenious the inventor of this technique was. You tuck it all in and fold the binding over so that no one would ever guess at the raggedy edges and loose threads. Maybe this is what blogging and Facebook allow us to do with our lives.

Then I went and collected Grandson, waiting while he enjoyed the story of Noddy and the stolen cars.

He came over to our house and played with his trains, undisturbed by any pesky little sisters. (As I've said before, our rug is not really as bright as this. It must have fibres which bend the light ... or something. Blame Ikea.)

There haven't been any frosts yet but most of the flowers in the garden are over, apart from bedding plants such as begonias and geraniums. This Busy Lizzie makes a splash of colour, though, inside and out. I've had it for years, or at least I keep it going from cuttings.

We went to the playpark ...

... and walked home by the river. Look at those autumn leaves. Despite the sunshine, the winter can't be far away.

And then he stayed the night. He's very cute in his pyjamas.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Some more nothing much

I've now attached the binding (the machine bit) to my much-neglected cot quilt. Cassie is hindering the next stage somewhat, but it's all hand-sewing from now on so it won't take too long. 

Son came down for the day yesterday and we went for a walk by the sea. It was a beautiful autumn day. He told us how he has become the go-to doctor in his practice when toenails need to be removed. Urgh.

We're hoping for continuing sunshine, since we have a leak in the roof. It rained last Friday night and dripped down right beside my bed. This isn't very conducive to peaceful sleep. A chap is coming to mend it on Saturday, "weather permitting". I do hope it permits.

This is quite picture-postcardy, don't you think?

That's Cramond Island. It's accessible by a causeway at low tide but cut off at other times.

Granddaughter is very jolly, if a bit dazzled by the flash.

Grandson loves playing with his traffic signs and cones. He doesn't seem bothered by the mismatch in sizes and has now added a policeman to keep things in order at the end of the line.

Me: I think you should go to the toilet before you go to nursery.
Him: No, I don't want to.
Me: I really think you should.
Him: No.
Me: [trying to guilt-trip him]:You don't want to make me sad, do you?
[Pause for thought]
Him: No, I don't. Would a cuddle help?

It did.