Sunday, July 24, 2016

Complicated stuff

It's been an eventful week, with various visits from the grandchildren. On Fridays, above, Granddaughter is dressed by her father, though I think that she herself directs proceedings. The combinations of garments aren't always entirely expected, but you can get away with anything when you're three.

Grandson, whose preferred subject for drawing is road layouts with complicated junctions and traffic lights, surprised me the other day with this. I have labelled it for posterity. It shows the (rather embellished) route of waste water from the loo to a water treatment plant and thence to the sea at the bottom. The original design of the pipes comprised just the blue lines but then he added a few more purely decorative ones. He explained the coloured oblong bit very seriously: this is where the water gets cleaned. The green bits clean it for the fish, the blue bits clean it for the seals and the red bits clean it for the sharks. The yellow bit is just general cleaning and then the process is (more or less) repeated. (He didn't actually call it a water treatment plant.)

Yes, he may be mildly eccentric.

I'm off down to London for a week to look after Daughter 2, who's not been well. Mr L is having to fend for himself. Don't get up to mischief, R...

Monday, July 18, 2016

The weekend

Another jolly walk with the group on Saturday, in West Lothian, from Almondell, along the aqueduct and the River Almond.

We passed Illieston House, built around the end of the 16th century. Previously there had been a hunting lodge for James II and IV on this site. Evidently James III was more interested in unmanly pursuits such as music than he was in hunting and leading his country into war. That's my kind of king.

Walking along the aqueduct was fine until...

you looked down. Argh.

A bridge over the canal was much better for the nerves.
This is the sign for Lin's Mill. William Lin died there in 1645, thus achieving the unenviable distinction of being the last person in Scotland to die of plague. He'd have been surprised, I imagine, to find out that his house was for sale recently for offers over £795,000.

The walk was about six and a half miles.

Then yesterday was Grandson's fifth birthday. The other grandparents, Nanny and Gramps, were here to celebrate, as were Son and Daughter-in-Law. Grandson looked at his cake, which had five candles plus a 5 (which was also a candle) and enquired, "Why are there six candles on my cake?" (Pedant.)

This was the cake. Grandson decorated it himself.

This was the cake that Daughter 1 made - on request - for his party with his friends. You may be able to perceive a theme.

That was a quick five years. How we love him.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


The children and I went to the Botanics today and, among other things, admired the wild flower meadow.

Even though there were no traffic lights or road signs in sight, Grandson seemed quite taken with it.

Granddaughter was wearing a matching headband. It didn't actually match her outfit but it certainly matched the flowers.

After a while, they decided to roll uphill towards the way out.

It turned out that this was more difficult than rolling downhill. It's all education.

Then we came home and Granddaughter immersed herself in books, as usual.

Last week, Mr Life's cousin's son and his wife (for whom the grandchildren were page boy and flower girl at their recent wedding) were coming home from a delayed honeymoon on the island of Skye. Rather surprisingly (to me) they decided to drive by the house where Mr Life's grandparents (and thus the young man's great-grandparents) used to live. They could see people inside so rang the doorbell to ask if it was all right to take a photo of the house. They were asked in and given a cup of tea. Amazingly, these were the people to whom Granny had sold the house in the late 1970s. Even more amazingly, on renovating the house, the new owners had removed the mantelpiece and found this photo, which had slipped down the back. And they'd kept it. And now produced it. You have to admire their filing system.

We had never seen a copy before. It's of Mr Life's granny and her four sisters. Granny is second from the right. She was not, it must be said, a great beauty. But she was a jolly soul, lived to 99 and enjoyed her life. I don't think that any of her descendants look like her.

Never throw anything away, in case the great-grandson of the owner should happen by forty years later... .

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Part 2

We left my brother and sister-in-law's house in Epsom to spend the weekend with Daughter 2 in Walthamstow and then returned with her to Epsom on the Sunday evening. On Monday we all went to Nymans, another National Trust garden which I've wanted to visit for a while (ever since we went to the Linley Sambourne House in London, also recommended, and discovered the connection - Linley Sambourne's daughter married into the family that owned Nymans). The house has a slightly complicated history: it was majorly remodelled twice to suit different generations' tastes and then almost completely burned down in 1947.

This bit remains undamaged but the rest, sadly, is a shell.

But the gardens are very lovely, as are this dogwood and Daughter 2.

It seems to be the year of the carved bench.

Then on the Tuesday, we all went to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and saw Monty Don and Joe Swift (tv gardening presenters) and of course had to take their photo, like other people in the crowd, though this is very silly really, especially since our friend George is the Scottish equivalent and we don't feel especially star-struck in his presence. But, you know. Monty Don! The poor things chatted away for the tv camera just as if fifty elderly ladies weren't waving mobile phones above other people's heads.

The flowers were also very fine.

On Wednesday, back in Walthamstow, Daughter 2 went to work and we visited the Royal Academy to see the David Hockney portraits exhibition, which we enjoyed (though they seemed a bit rough and ready to us, but maybe that was the point - there were 82 of them and anyway, we're no experts).

Then we went to the Summer Exhibition. I have no idea why anyone would buy this orange picture - can't remember what it cost - or pay £30,000 for an entirely white canvas.

Or this one, by the Boyle family, which costs £96,000. There are no doubt subtleties which elude me.

Then we came home and found that some time during the eight days we'd been away, the fridge had packed up. Luckily there wasn't all that much in it, and even more luckily it wasn't the freezer, which is of a similar, extremely aged, vintage. We have now ordered new versions of both, which arrive on Monday. Meanwhile, we're fridgeless and it's warm. However, this is a first world problem and we'll survive.

So that was all very lovely (except that we had to leave Daughter 2 behind; and the dead fridge problem). And now we're home. And getting slightly impatient to meet our new granddaughter, due to enter the world at the end of the month. I hope the world gets itself a bit more sorted out soon.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Yet another holiday part 1

We've just returned from yet another little jaunt down in the Edinburgh/London train. First we met up with Daughter 2 for a meal, but couldn't stay with her at that point because she had a friend visiting. However, this gave us a fine opportunity to visit my brother and sister-in-law, in Surrey.

They took us to Polesden Lacey, the party house of the daughter of McEwan of McEwan's brewery. Her father had made a lot of money - from brewing but also from railways. He fell in love with a maid servant (not his own) and had a long love affair with her (with resultant daughter) but couldn't marry her because his family disapproved. But then later in life, when the older members of the family had died, he did marry her. Which is rather heartwarming.

This is the view from the back of the house. The daughter actually lived in London and used this house only for entertaining.

She had rather fancy tastes.

I suppose that if you have all that money, you have to do something with it.

She died childless, however, and left the house to the National Trust, which is handy for the rest of us. This is her rather fine rose garden...

and these are her rather splendid delphiniums. Clearly she doesn't have my slug and snail problem.

Another day, my brother took us to Dorking, which is a rather pretty old town not really designed with cars in mind. It has a lot of antique centres - we mainly managed to resist buying things -

 and this - oh dear - lovely quilting shop in a rather ancient building. It's called The Quilt Room and is run by a lady called Pam. She does mail order. (Just saying.)

Well, it would have been rude not to buy anything.