Sunday, October 30, 2016

Autumn colours

Isn't it odd how one has brief snapshots of memories which are pretty insignificant but which remain vivid? I remember walking along towards the university library one autumn morning when I was a student. The air was crisp and cold, and I felt invigorated and alive. I remember thinking that perhaps autumn was my favourite season. Nowadays, not so much, because I'm in the autumn of my life and - oh, you know, unfulfilled opportunities and all that.

However, if every autumn day were like today, I'd be fine with it. It was mild and sunny as we walked along by the golf course, and the leaves were crisp underfoot and there were berries and late flowers and there still seemed to be possibilities.

As usual, there were very few people on the golf course and as usual, I mused on the possibility of my becoming dictator of Scotland, in which case I'd turn all the golf courses into public parks. They're such lovely spaces and who wants to have to hit a little white ball while having a nice walk?

It's been a late autumn because it's been so mild, but at last the leaves are turning pretty colours.

I'm making Mr L a snuggling quilt incorporating engine / train fabrics. It's very simple - all squares, some of them quite big so that the engines aren't too chopped up - so the piecing shouldn't take very long (she said hopefully). However, I can't get much further until a fabric he's chosen arrives from Hong Kong. He's fussy about the accuracy of his engines.

A couple of the fabrics are from old shirts of his. Quilting is such an economical hobby. (Oh no, it's not.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


This weekend, as a real treat, Son and Daughter-in-Law brought 11-week-old Granddaughter M for a three-day visit. You'll have to take my completely unbiased word for it that she's an absolutely beautiful baby with huge dark blue eyes and peachy skin. Son doesn't want her blogged or Facebooked, which I have to admit is probably a good idea. I do keep thinking that I should only show the backs of the heads of the other two grandchildren, just in case some random horrible person should chance on the blog. Anyway, here is Son reading an educational book with his daughter.

And here he is, admiring her at the Botanics. He is very besotted.

And here she is in a sling, on a different walk. They went away this morning and, lovely as it was to have them, the house seems very babyless now, alas.

Daughter 1 and her husband and family have been visiting Daughter 2 in London. The children were asked where their favourite place had been. Grandson said, "Trafalgar Square". Granddaughter L said, "Granny's house". She somewhat misunderstood the question but... ahhh.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Next year, the Booker prize

Grandson decided to write a story. He enjoys actually writing the words but his inspiration was flowing too quickly for his penmanship, so he dictated it to his dad. He is, after all, only five.

To fully catch the atmosphere of this story, you have to pronounce the Ks in the names of the hero and secondary character: K-nooker and K-nacker.

He then illustrated it. The above picture shows Knooker - who is, incidentally, a hedgehog (that surprised you, didn't it?) - setting off from home with his anxious (hedgehog) mother saying goodbye to him.

This picture shows him being pursued by the dragon - whose cheerful expression shows that he thinks he's going to catch Knooker - the element of suspense - while Knooker's friend Knacker shouts  encouragement from his upstairs window. And - here's the twist in the tail - it turns out that Knacker is a biscuit. Knacker the cracker, as Grandson himself told me.

(PS Please don't think I'm trying to suggest that he's a genius! I just think it's a hoot.)

Sunday, October 16, 2016


By contrast, this is Edinburgh, with its roads running down to the sea.

Lovely though Florence and Venice are, I wouldn't like to live there. It would be very hard to be old or disabled in Venice. Wherever you walk, you need to cross bridges with steps, every few hundred yards, and the public transport is, of course, by boat, not by bus with frequent stops, as here.

I wouldn't actually like to live anywhere except Edinburgh or very near it. I do love being where I understand all the systems: how to get where I need to go, where the shops are and the quiet places to walk, such as...

this street, where we were yesterday with our walking group. It was somewhat wet, so we cancelled our proposed long walk and just wandered through the back streets of the centre of town for a couple of hours and then went for coffee.

I even like the climate. Yes, it rains sometimes but that's why Scotland is green. And we don't get extreme heat or cold. We don't get hurricanes or tornadoes.

I just like home, I suppose.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

And then there was Venice

It's ridiculous: I know that everybody raves about Venice and that's why I wanted to see it, but I just hadn't expected it to be so totally Venetian all over. Many (most? all other?) cities have lovely but also unlovely parts. Or indeed pleasant but ordinary areas. Venice isn't like that. There's no room on the islands for bungalows or high rise flats - and presumably some far-sighted officials a long time ago recognised the unique quality of what was there and made laws to keep it that way.

Some bits are somewhat scruffy, with peeling paint or plaster. But everywhere is picturesque.

Even St Mark's Square wasn't nearly as busy as I expected. October was a good time to visit: not too hot but still pleasantly warmish.

There were also amazing museums. In the Museo Correr, for example, there was this holy book from the 15th century (and there were many, many other equally old and beautiful books on display).

This is a plate from the Correr Service, made about 1520. Such a cheery lion; clearly a music lover. Imagine eating your food from that! - though I imagine that no one ever did, or the service wouldn't have survived. I love it. (I want it.)

And this painting by Vittore Carpaccio - just look at the expressions on these ladies' faces as they wait for their husbands to come home from hunting. Never was boredom so brilliantly captured - in 1490, and completely recognisable today. Evidently the women were previously thought to be courtesans, but then someone found that this painting is actually the bottom of a painting in the Getty Museum (and the whole left hand side is also missing). The top part shows the hunting. If you'd like to see the two surviving bits married together (I'd recommend it) go to

But also - gondolas.

And canals.

We went over to the island of Murano, where I went into many, many glass shops (Mr Life is a patient man)

and a glass museum, where you see him doing a passable imitation of those two ladies. He claims he was examining the fancy ceiling.

Murano is also very photogenic.

We also visited the island of Burano, with its gaily painted houses. So unlike Edinburgh, which has grey buildings and lots of gardens. Grey and green. We saw no gardens in Venice and therefore hardly any birds except pigeons - not even sea birds, which was surprising.

It does have palazzos, though - palazzi, I suppose - of which this is one. It's now a museum and is HUGE. Those dukes must have been immensely rich. Can you see Mr L, in blue, at the very far end of the room, reading a notice?

And, you know, gondoliers.

And Canaletto, wherever you look.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Florence again

I have decided that all roofs should be red, as in Florence. So much prettier than grey, as we usually have here.

One day - the hottest, as it happened - we climbed the hill opposite the main part of the city. The guide book described it as a "strenuous" climb, and while it wasn't particularly strenuous to climb up to get this view (look at all the olive trees) ...

it was...

a very steep, smooth and rather slippery road down again - much steeper than it looks here. "It must be very difficult to walk down here when it's frosty," I said to Mr Life. But actually, no one but us was being foolish enough to walk down even on a hot day, so presumably the Florentians don't attempt it in winter.

Then, to get to another part of the hill, we had to go up again. Once more, the road was much steeper than it looks in the photo. This time there were two or three other couples toiling up it, all thirty or forty years younger than us.

And then there was another steep road down, but we were rewarded with this plaque, which seems to say that Galileo perfected his telescope here. He must have been fit, is all I can say.

Still, even Florentian washing looks pretty against a golden building.

Then we walked down to the river again.

We visited the Uffizi and saw Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus", which is totally familiar to me because a copy of it hung in our school. Mr Life pointed out that it seemed a slightly strange picture to choose for a school for young ladies and I suppose it was. Possibly not as strange as it would have been for a school for young gentlemen.

I can't remember what the label said about this painting but I thought it was remarkable that it didn't mention that a monster is about to eat the praying lady.

And look at these flowers offered to the infant Jesus. Aren't they beautiful?

I loved this face, painted in the last quarter of the 15th century, possibly by Filippino Lippi. I wouldn't be surprised to see this old chap on an Edinburgh bus tomorrow, though with a different hat.

Everywhere we went, there were stunning ceilings. I don't think our necks will ever recover.

And can I have this floor, please?

This is one of the many views from the Uffizi. Here we have the mediaeval Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge. (It sounds more romantic in Italian.) It's got shops on it, and when the shopkeepers ran out of room in the seventeenth century, they just built extensions sticking out over the water. These haven't yet collapsed into the Arno so I suppose the builders must have known what they were doing.

And that was just Florence. Then there was Venice - even more amazing, if possible.

Monday, October 10, 2016

We have a bucket list and this was on it

We've just come home from a week in Florence and Venice. They are mind-blowingly beautiful. I knew that they were special places but I hadn't realised that everything was so lovely: wherever you look. For example, above is the ceiling in the Baptistry in Florence. All that gold!

And this is a tiny bit of the floor. Imagine working out how many bits of marble of each colour you would need. And then cutting them.

Even on my little phone camera, it was impossible not to take beautiful photos of Florence.


And ahhh.

We climbed the hill opposite the main part of the city.

Not a bad lunch time view.

There's more, lots more, but you may have had enough of my holiday snaps for now. But if you haven't been there: you should really, really, really go.