Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Getting enjoyment out of life in various ways

It's been absolutely glorious weather, warm enough for summer (in Scotland) but with those long shadows that remind you that the earth is tilting away from the sun and you'd better enjoy things now before autumn closes in. We've been enjoying from the top of Corstorphine Hill -

- ooh, look: some tell-tale autumnal colours there -

and along the canal -

- not a ripple on the water -

- and in Princes Street. There were some Japanese tourists with parasols. Now, those were optimistic items to bring on a Scottish holiday at the end of September.

So that's been nice, but the real joy's come from a review which I've just read of a novel which has been long-listed for the US National Book Award for fiction. I don't like to criticise your taste, Americans, but - really?

Here are some quotes from the novel which were used in the review.

"She made a promise that he would never know the scope of her darkness, that she would never show him the evil that lived in her, that he would know of her only a great love and light."

"The dean's eyebrows were caterpillars that chew down apple trees overnight."

"She had gorgeous hands, like owlets."

"The ice had retracted from the banks to resemble gums with exposed tooth roots."

"Her grandmother's mouth was more dash than n, signalling happiness."   (???)

"His looks were both promising and as if some essential promise had fled and left wreckage in its wake, which was odd, the boy being fifteen at most."

There you are. That cheered you up, didn't it? I wish I were still teaching - what fun I would have discussing these with a class.

(I don't like to type out the complete title in case ... well, I don't know. But it's F-tes and Fur--s by Laur-n Gr-ff. I think I need to order it from the library to find a few more gems.)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Abbey St Bathans

Yesterday we went for a walk on the hills above Abbey St Bathans in the Borders. The willow herb was in seed, contrasting fluffily with the rowans behind it. I'm so glad that none of these seeds is likely to fly as far as my garden. My mother always remembered willow herb covering bomb sites in London during the war. There must be thousands of seeds on each plant.

The first part of the walk was along a (deserted) road. We rather liked this exhortation to toot when rounding the corner.

Then we crossed a stream...

 ... and followed muddy paths, clearly used by many many sheep before us, through the bracken and up the hill ...

... to Edin's Hall, an Iron Age broch, or fort. (It was a long way for someone to climb just in order to scrape off the E and H from the notice. And why???)

The broch currently looks like this.

It may have once looked like this. Or possibly not.

And then we came down again

 and drove to Duns,

where we had coffee and cake ...

... and admired the very bright - if slightly random - floral arrangements. And paint choices. That blue was a brave decision... .

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What next?

This is such a non-accomplishment compared to the intricate creations of some of my bloggy chums, but in my humble way I'm quite chuffed to have finished the quilt I've been working on, intermittently, for most of this year.  I decided to make a tumbler quilt because it's just as easy as an all-squares one and thus suited to my status as a beginner. I chose to do it in stripes of white, green, yellow and blue with two borders and then Daughter 2, for whom it was destined, chose the actual fabrics from my stash. And then she had a bit of a loooooong wait.

It's not for a bed - she's an architect and architects tend to be somewhat minimalist in their home d├ęcor - but it's quite big enough for two to snuggle under while watching tv.

It includes unused bits of fabrics from our kitchen curtains (made 26 years ago), Daughter 2's bedroom curtains (17 years ago) and the upstairs bathroom curtains (17 years ago). The former two lots of curtains are still in use (yes, the Scots are a thrifty race) though the bathroom ones faded so much that I replaced them. I'm astonished that the kitchen curtains (Laura Ashley fabric, like the bathroom ones) used to be this bright.  Maybe the time has come for some new ones.

Don't look too closely at the quilting, which is probably not done as a proper quilter would, since I just bashed happily on with what I felt like. But it's got hearts and flowers and little houses, because I love her and we both love gardening and she designs buildings. It's all hand-quilted because I like hand-sewing when I'm watching television and anyway I don't trust my machine skills (or my machine) for doing anything but the piecing together of the patches. This is why it took me some months to finish.

 Look! - it works!
Thanks to my advisors, Anna  and the rather alarming - in a firm-but-fair-schoolteacherish way - Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Company, who posts really helpful videos on YouTube. 
I finished the quilt yesterday morning so that Daughter 2 could take it back down to London (sigh - not that the quilt's gone, but that she has) and now... I feel... at a bit of a loose end.
What next?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Come back, Anna!

Anna - - very kindly brought me these fabrics to add to my stash. I've always loved the combination of blue and mushroom - she must be psychic. They were all nicely tied up but I washed them so that they wouldn't shrink any more (because that's what Anna does and I always try to follow her instructions) and they're now slightly less neat than they were when she presented them. Anna is a crafting genius and makes quilts of great beauty, unlike the beginner's things that I produce.
She also gave me this Anna-made little pouch for keeping sewing-related items in. Isn't it lovely?

The fabric is a map of New York.

And some genuine sewing-related items to put in it.

Thanks so much, Anna!

I needed her over the last couple of days but she'd heartlessly gone back to the US. I've been putting the binding on the quilt that I've been doing on and off for most of the year (not that it's complicated; just that I'm slow) and while the previous bindings have gone on without much difficulty, this one required a bit of unpicking once sewn on because the quilt was slightly puckered where I'd made the final join in the binding. This was because the final join was a tiny bit inaccurate, so that the binding was fractionally shorter than the quilt. It was barely noticeable, but if you've spent many hours cutting up, sewing together and then hand-quilting, you don't want to be forever annoyed by puckers. Then once I'd unpicked that bit of binding, made it slightly longer and done the final join again, the join itself threatened to be a bit wonky. Anyway, after much fiddling, I've beaten it into submission. Is this a good use of my dwindling number of years, I ask myself?

When I've finished hand-sewing the binding on to the back, a peaceful task which even I can't mess up... I hope... the annoyance will probably have receded.

I shall never understand how Lynley  of can make a new quilt every weekend, more or less. She must be superhuman.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Furniture and such like

In early summer, I planted up these pots beside the garden bench from cuttings I'd taken from other pelargoniums. Spot the rogue plant. I should label my pots of cuttings.

The pink really doesn't go with the red - even though the red isn't actually quite so scarlet as it looks here. My aesthetic sense (such as it is) is offended by my mistake.

In other furniture news - not news at all really, since I've mentioned this before - it's pictures like this that make me mildly embarrassed by the ancientness of our tables and chairs. This table - bought in 1975 at a junk shop for £4 - makes an excellent (pretend) boat when required. The little chair behind it belonged to the infant Sunday school class at our church and used to house my infant behind. The coffee table behind that was given to my grandfather about 1980 by a friend who'd bought it at auction and then changed her mind; Grandpa didn't want it so we took it. We thought it would be useful till we got something better. And the chair in the top left hand corner used to sit in my grandparents' sitting room. We gave it a home when my granny died and my grandpa came to live with my parents. It's of great sentimental value but since I remember it all my life and it certainly wasn't new in my childhood, it's not of any monetary value.

But I guess we'll just keep them all. They've become old friends.

Friday, September 11, 2015


Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1 and the grandchildren moved house today - or as we say in Scotland, flitted. The children got somewhat excited.

Here they are trying to keep out of the way, in the back garden of the old house.

How is it that, moving from a smaller to a much larger house, there didn't seem to be room for all their possessions? And that's not counting all the stuff which they decluttered into one of our bedrooms before showing their house to sell it and which is still under our roof.


After a long day, and just after Granddaughter, with a trembling lip, said, "I want to go home," someone had the brilliant idea of sitting them down with a laptop and "Jake the Pirate". Peace reigned. And then we ate dinner. And cake.

It'll all be lovely in due course.

Coincidentally, Son and Daughter-in-Law flitted today too. But we haven't seen their new house yet.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Fresh air and exercise

We drove up to Drumnadrochit on Friday, skirting the banks of Loch Ness (alas, no monster emerged, dripping, from the depths, shaking the water from its scaly humps) and met up with the others at the hostel. This was hugely more civilised than hostels were when we were young. Mr L and I had an ensuite double room - with a bath, o joy - rather than the single-sex dorms that I remember.

Then we walked most of Saturday in very pleasant weather, pausing at viewpoints (above),

walking through woods,

admiring sheep peacefully grazing, until we came to our destination -

- this waterfall. It amused me that, after plodding for six miles up and down hills, we all inspected the waterfall, said "Ah yes" or equivalent and sat down to eat our sandwiches. Because of course the destination wasn't really the point. The walking and the chats were the point.

Then we set off again

past more fields of sheep,

through this rather floral village, and back to the hostel.

The next day we walked along the canal and then the river at Inverness.

After that Mr L and I had a little detour to admire Inverness Botanic Gardens, which are tiny but pretty.

Then we drove home through the hills, which were purple with heather.

It was a lovely weekend in such good company. And when we get weather like this, with the sunlight making the colours glow in the clear air, it's hard to imagine a better place to live than Scotland. Though I may be biased.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Anna returns

So the lovely Thimbleanna came to visit us from the Midwest again. We first met when she and her husband came to look after our cats (yes, I know... it's a long way from there to Edinburgh but our cats were pretty special) a few years ago. And because she's very perceptive and appreciates the wonder that is Scotland, she later returned with her daughter-in-law to indoctrinate her into all things Scottish (well, and Londonish). If you follow Anna's blog (which doesn't seem to be working at the moment for some reason) you'll know that she's a whizz at sewing, knitting, cooking, wall-building and so on. And she is also a really nice person. We went to the Botanics...

 ... here she is at my beloved herbaceous border...

... and the Kelpies, which are bigger than they look here balanced on our heads. I'm hoping it was the brisk wind, billowing through my loose blouse, that makes me look quite so pregnant. And short.

Then we took her to Crieff and climbed the Knock (hill).

And to Queensferry.
We did some of this the other week with Frogdancer Lisa but it's always nice to see things through visitors' eyes.

Another day we walked along the Water of Leith...

... which has acquired these balanced-stone sort-of-sculptures since we were last there. A local chap has evidently been making them. And why not?

She's now down with Daughter 2 in London for a few days. I wish I could have gone too... but this weekend we've been away (yet again - it's all go here) with our walking group to Drumnadrochit. It's a good name, isn't it? Up there with Auchtermuchty, Ecclefechan and Freuchie.