Sunday, March 29, 2015


I've spent quite a lot of last week listening to Brahms' German Requiem, which is so beautiful. I didn't know it before one of the choirs I sing in started rehearsing it, but now it's one of my favourite choral pieces. Mind you, this makes it one of my favourite twenty or so choral pieces... my absolute favourite is generally the one I'm learning. But it's very special. We performed it last night - hence the last-week revision - and it was so exhilarating. I love singing in a big choir. The windows rattled in the doom-and-gloom bits! It's wonderful standing in the middle of such a huge sound - even the quiet parts are powerful when 80 people are singing pianissimo.

It does kind of make you think, though - singing about all flesh being like grass. The grass withers and its flowers fall away. Hmm. Yes. He was only in his mid-thirties when he wrote it (well, quite - gosh). His mother had recently died.

So today it was lovely to mess around in the garden with the little ones. It's very difficult to take good photos of Grandson these days. He doesn't stay still long enough. But Granddaughter's reactions aren't so fast and one gets occasional unblurry ones.

Grandson has always liked our little pebble pool.

The garden's becoming more and more colourful as spring burgeons.

Small boys do like playing with a stick.

My other choir is rehearsing Haydn's Nelson Mass and Te Deum, so I need to do some intensive singing along to those CDs in the kitchen for the next few weeks to polish them up. Lucky Mr L.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Gosford House

 Ah, spring. As you can see, it's been shining directly on the garden.

And here's another ray of sunshine - in this case, clutching her daddy's legs. This is her third forehead bump. We're hoping that she starts being more careful soon.

At the weekend we went out with the walking group, this time to Gosford and Aberlady. Here's the mausoleum that the seventh Earl of Wemyss (1723-1808) built as a family burial vault some time around 1796 in the grounds of his grand house, Gosford. The top of it is a perfect pyramid, for reasons connected with Freemasonry. It cost £1073, which was a fair bit in those days. Indeed, when I started work in 1973, my first year's salary was only £1728. I think the Earl was somewhat wealthier than I . For some reason, though there's room for 64 coffins, the Earl's is the only one currently in there.

There are various artificial lakes with swans paddling decoratively around.

Here's the house, designed by Robert Adam. I wonder what on earth it cost- probably more than I've earned in my life. All the same, the eighth Earl didn't like the wings as designed by Adam and had them knocked down. The current wings date from 1890.

This is the side; also quite fancy.

We walked on to Aberlady and along by the sea, passing the place where Mr L and I got engaged in 1972. Aaaahh. This precipitated some discussion about the circumstances in which others among us had plighted their troths. Gill remembered that George took her out for a posh meal and she was sure that he was going to ask her to marry her; but he didn't. "When he eventually did," she said, "it was a bit of an anticlimax." She thought about this. "Now I come to think about it," she added, "I can't quite think when it happened." Still, it's lasted forty-something years so I think she's got over the disappointment.

Then back to the Gosford farm shop and cafe to have a cup of tea after our seven-mile walk.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sunshine and sand

It's the first day of sandpit weather. Miraculously (since the sand was quite damp) Granddaughter didn't insist on going in the sandpit. Grandson took off his trousers and sat on a plastic bag. So no one got wet.

Granddaughter happily ploutered.

Grandson made train tracks in the sand (now, there's a surprise). But he's now able to make sand pies more or less on his own - such an advance from the previous sandpit day in late summer.

And the garden is blossoming.


Jolly good!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Little people

I always feel that character is fairly obvious from early on - though I'm just really going on how I felt I was as a child and how my children were.

I wonder if this is true of the grandchildren.

The other day Granddaughter plodded purposefully out of the sitting room and when I pursued her, she was half-way up the stairs. After a very short time she reappeared, having gone into the bedroom where Daughter 2 normally sleeps when she comes to stay. Daughter 2's slippers were firmly clutched in Granddaughter's hands. She likes putting on other people's shoes and the slippers have been on her feet before.

I helped her downstairs (her arms were rather full) and she put on the slippers. Then she decisively marched back into the sitting room, sat down on one of the little chairs and began to scribble in a colouring book. (And yes, she's got another dunt on her forehead - she seems to be a bit accident prone at the moment.)

So far, she seems quite an organised little person.

Grandson isn't much of an artist yet but he likes drawing numbers, occasional letters and - can you guess what this is? - traffic lights. These are quite complicated ones, with green arrows to left and right - they probably don't show up in this small picture on my blog, but they're there all right.

Our way here from his house features a lot of traffic lights and also, at this time of year, crocuses on The Meadows - a park we drive though. "Look," I say, "at the pretty flowers. They're called crocuses."

He glances briefly at them. "Mmm," he says. "Why do those traffic lights have a big green arrow and the traffic lights back there just have a little one?"

Umm.... .

Gratifyingly, Granddaughter looks out of the car window and says, "Flowers!" in a tone of amazed delight.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Old and new

Fourteen years ago, we got new sofas and rug for the sitting room. The rug was from Ikea and was very cheap but we decided that it would do for the moment. But recently it was getting rather scruffy so we got a new one, which was delivered on Saturday. We chose it to tone in with the covers of the sofas, which are a navyish blue. The sitting room has French windows which face south and we were aware that the sofas had faded slightly - not really enough to warrant new furniture, and anyway, they have loose covers which could be replaced, if they were bad enough and if we could be bothered.

So we put the rug down and it was fine. It's blue, not lilac as it looks in the picture and it goes quite well with the sofa covers.

But then I decided that we should... Mr Life should... go into the attic and retrieve the very heavy cardboard box which has been there for fourteen years because it came free with the suite and contains a spare, cream, set of covers. For some years I've vaguely wondered what it would look like if we put them on instead.

They were very crumpled and not easy to iron, being somewhat unwieldy and not a regular shape, but I did my best. Mr L removed the navy covers (frankly, they were very overdue for a wash, though they looked ok because they were dark) and replaced them with the cream ones. This took him some considerable time and he's possibly not going to be very keen to do this again in the particularly near future.

It is, as my mother would have said, a wee change.

It's not at all practical as a colour, is it? I'm not sure that it's a permanent look, though we don't use this room all the time so it won't be sat on every day. It's where the grandchildren mainly play, however!

The new rug no longer matches it, of course, but the Ikea cushion goes rather well so that's all right... . I need to do some more ironing of the covers by lying on the floor and doing the best I can without taking them off.

I still haven't actually washed the navy covers, since I need a good drying day (and the biggest bits will have to go to the laundrette because they won't fit in the machine).

Talking of things that have been going a long time and which then change, I've realised that my blog has passed its ninth birthday (gosh, how did that happen and why have I not achieved much in the past nine years?). Since I no longer have students who might (though almost undoubtedly never did) stumble on it, I've decided that it's about time to stop being Isabelle (which is my middle name) and declare myself by my first name, which is Pam. I've never really liked the name Pamela but it was a very popular Fifties choice. Pam is marginally better but both are rather jolly-hockey-sticks. Anyway, there we are. Hello.

Now I must see if I can change the name on my profile.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Nearly new

Today was Granddaughter's birthday. She's 2. Daughter 1 made her a panda cake. Granddaughter likes pandas, though not as much as she likes cake.

She appreciated the artistry...

... but made sure that she got some cake stuffed in her mouth as soon as possible, in case someone thought better of this unusual carbohydrate largesse.

Today, her actual birthday, we went to Prestonfield House for afternoon tea in a private room. The house, now a hotel, was built in 1687 and various important people have visited it over the centuries, such as David Hume, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Johnson, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Sean Connery (is he important?), Catherine Zeta Jones (is she?) and Oliver Reed (well, again...). The decor is still very much as it was originally and the house is full of antiques.

It was a generous tea, not entirely without calories.

Granddaughter may be disappointed at the meals she's provided with tomorrow.

You can see our main city hill outside the window, basking in the balmy Edinburgh sunshine. Well, actually it was blowing a gale and intermittently raining but we'll ignore that.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Doing things

The weeks flash by and somehow I never have enough time. The garden needs attention now that spring is more or less here - I cut some things back today but there's still a lot of tidying up to be done. I should practise the piano more. And I want to get on with my quilt. And of course there are friends to meet up with, grandchildren to play with, books to read, walks to take, blogging to do... . I have a huge backlog of things I want to do, from when I was working and never had any time at all.

Sometimes the grandchildren play together, or at least alongside each other, as above.

And sometimes they play separately, as below. Children are so busy as well.

We always miss Daughter 2 so much after she goes back to London. Still, as I said, it's kind of spring. These little daffodils smell heavenly.

And I've sewn the tumblers together and cut out bits of fabric for the borders. Now to attach them. I hope I haven't made them more complicated than I can cope with. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Very strange indeed...

I have a question for you: what connects the first two pictures below...

with the picture above? 

Well, the answer is that they're all of the same room. 

Today I had the surreal experience of being invited to see the changes that the people who bought my parents' house have made. Above, you can see my parents' dining room, as it was. The new people have changed it into their kitchen, put a line of units where the fireplace was and blocked off the window, which is currently a wall with "Congratulations Daddy" adorning it. To the right, where you can't see it, they've knocked through a little passageway into the butler's pantry, and the wall between the butler's pantry and the kitchen, and made the butler's pantry's window into a glass door to light their kitchen. 

It was all very very odd indeed. It was my parents' house and yet it wasn't. 

The pictures immediately below show the sitting room as it was...

and above, as it is now. I thought the mantelpiece was rather nice before, but there we are. Tastes vary.

The new owners were happy for me to take some photos to show the family, but I didn't like to do this in any great detail, so they're not really effective as before and after photos. And the walls in the photo above are actually quite a dark mushroom colour, though they look green here (shades of the blue and black dress making headlines a few days ago).

I feel... quite stressed and a bit disorientated but ... it was very kind of the young lady to invite me. And the lovely thing is that they've given their little girl the middle name of May, which is my mum's name, because they thought that my mum was such a sweet old lady. (They might not have, I realise, if her name had been something horrible. But still. I wish I could tell Mum!)

The British Mother's Day is coming in a couple of weeks and the shops are making the most of this marketing opportunity. It's quite hard when you no longer have a mother and you keep being reminded of this fact. But of course this must be a very common experience.

Ah well. Such is life.