Saturday, April 29, 2017

Seven things to do at the Botanic Gardens

1. Eat a cheese scone (not pictured).
2. Ride on the caterpillar in the café play area.

3. Play in the play house.

4. See if the Aeolian harp is sounding. (It never is, except once - we were so excited.)

5. Get wet by running too near the sprinklers.

6. Visit the glasshouses.

7. Stand on lots of rocks.

There are also lots of plants to admire, should you happen not to be four. But on the whole, being four appears to be fun.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

More art

We're making an effort in our retired life to go to exhibitions before the final week. It's so easy to say, oh, it's on till September - plenty of time. And then you're there with the hordes on the last Saturday, not really able to see.

So today we walked along the road to Modern Gallery 1, admiring the cherry blossom as we went.

This is what we wanted to see: "The Lamp of Sacrifice", cardboard models of 286 Edinburgh churches made in 2004 by Nathan Coley. It's interesting how powerful such things can be when they're crowded together like this. I don't know if any bloggy friends have seen Antony Gormley's  "Field", but it consists of up to 35,000 tiny terracotta figures on the floor facing the onlooker - the figures are very basic, but somehow the effect of all these little people apparently looking towards one is - what is it? - touching? alarming?

The churches are also rather moving - think of all of these buildings and all of that money raised to build them by ordinary people to make somewhere worthy of the God they believed in. Whether you're religious or not, it's likely to make you think of the effort, the good intentions - and what's going to happen to these buildings in the future. Some of them are no longer used as churches.

Outside, two swans were swimming around in the ponds in the Landform. It would be quite hard to make a nest here, without any sticks lying around for them, but they seemed to be finding things to eat in the water.

This is "Reclining Figure: Two Piece, 1960" by Henry Moore. We're not tempted to steal it.

Then we walked home along the river, 

enjoying the plashing sounds

and wondering what it would be like to live in one of these houses. Very pleasant, I'd think, though the river does sometimes rise considerably higher than this, so I imagine the bottoms of their gardens occasionally become rather wet.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mollie Panter-Downes

Sometimes I'm aware that my blog can be very Pollyanna-ish, possibly giving the impression that my life is all jolliness and sunshine. As with anyone's life, this isn't the case: there are unbloggable worries and sadnesses as well. However, I try not to dwell on these, so here's a picture of the garden, with its riot of daffodils and forget-me-nots.

This attitude tends to be reflected in my choice of reading material also: I prefer the upbeat or at least the not-too-depressing. I've recently discovered Mollie Panter-Downes (fine name) who wrote during the war, often for the New Yorker - though she was English. I do find her a hoot. For example, here are some extracts from "Good Evening, Mrs Craven: the Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes". In this story, Mrs Ramsay is meeting up with an old flame after five years, during which he's been abroad and she's got married. (The ... s indicate where I've skipped bits.)

“Gerald dear,” said Mrs Ramsay softly. She held out both of her hands, which Gerald pumped up and down. “Well, well,” he said, “old Helen.” Mrs Ramsay felt a slight but definite chill…

“Old Helen,” Gerald repeated fatuously, “this is nice.” Mrs Ramsay noticed coldly that he was a good deal yellower than he had been five years ago. “How is old Charles?” he asked. “And the kiddie?”

Mrs Ramsay said that old Charles was well and that old Susan had, of course, been shipped off to relatives in the country. He patted her knee absently, as though it were the head of a retriever…

Towards the end of lunch he extracted a snapshot from his cigarette case. Mrs Ramsay gazed thoughtfully at a toothy young woman in a bathing suit. “… We’re thinking of getting married,” Gerald explained…

Monica's teeth seemed many more than were strictly usual... Mrs Ramsay passed the snapshot briskly back to Gerald and said that she was so glad.

“Monica can sit on her hair,” said Gerald. “You never saw such stuff – naturally blond, too.”

Mrs Ramsay, reflecting that she would find no difficulty in sitting on Monica’s hair either if Monica’s head were included, said that she really must be running along now.

“I want you to meet Monica soon,” he said. “Do you know what attracted me to her about her first, Helen? She reminded me of you.”

As soon as she was out of sight round the corner, Mrs Ramsay took out her handbag mirror and anxiously inspected her teeth. They seemed much as usual.

It was odd how Gerald had changed when she herself looked precisely the way she had always looked. Already she felt a good deal better as she stepped jauntily along… away from the dear and mercifully stone-dead past.

Monday, April 17, 2017


We've had a lovely Easter weekend with Daughter 2, Son, Daughter-in-Law and Granddaughter-the-Younger all visiting for several days and the Edinburgh family there much of the time too.

Daughter 2 has been in Berlin and bought various splendid German pedestrian-crossing-related gifts for Grandson. She is a very good aunt.

She brought a t-shirt and bag for Granddaughter-the-Elder.

Then yesterday we had an Easter egg hunt - in the house, because it was threatening rain.

These are the clues that Daughter 2 drew for Granddaughter-the-Elder.

The children enjoyed following the clues.


Then today we went for a walk up the hill near our house...

and down again.

But now they're gone - Daughter 2 briefly pretending to be a tourist on the way to the station.

Monday, April 10, 2017


The Edinburgh grandchildren are away visiting their other grandparents down south, so we've been having a few little jaunts of our own. One day we went on a train to Galashiels, in the Border country. The new "Avengers" film is being shot in Edinburgh at the moment and there seemed to be green screens and a spoof coffee shop in a fenced-off bit of the station, which we think must have something to do with it.

Once we arrived at Galashiels, we walked round the hills above the town, admiring the daffodils and the new lambs and other signs of spring.

We returned along the River Tweed, where the wild garlic bloomed in profusion.

The next day it was very sunny and we had a walk along the prom,

followed by coffee and cake at The Beach House.

Look, beach volleyball.

Then we went to a local flower show and admired the impossibly perfect blooms.

I bought, for 50 pence, this bunch of rejects from the competition. They were utterly immaculate and all different. I've never had so much pleasure for so little outlay.

Then yesterday we went out to East Lothian, lunching at Cockenzie House, where these battle re-enactment people suddenly appeared in the garden, shooting at each other with alarming smoke and bangs (but no ill-effects).

And we proceeded to Winton House, which was open for charity. More splendid daffodils, more cake, and then we were shown round the house by Lady Dorothy herself, who was extremely nice (and just introduced herself as "Dorothy Ogilvy - I live here with my husband and children"). She was very informative about the house and its history and architecture and very trusting, as she led us through rooms crammed with antiques, and pictures by people like Van Dyke and Canaletto ("well, let's call them 'school of Canaletto'," Lady D said modestly) and Raeburn. I was very tempted to pop the odd pretty little carved box into my handbag. (But didn't.)

They dug out the lake, she told us, in memory of her husband's father. As you do.

Winton House was originally built in the 1400s but then the wicked English came and burnt down all of it apart from the cellars. The parts you can see in the photo were added on top in the 1600s. You can hire the house for a wedding - which would be lovely, if not exactly cheap. Lady Dorothy even showed us round the bedrooms available for wedding guests, which are all wonderful, with beautiful ornate plaster ceilings and huge beds but also every modern comfort. However, I think we're done with weddings for a while.

So we've had a very restful and interesting few days, but now it's about time I did some dusting.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Sunny day

Oh, what a joy it is to be a granny! We've often passed, in the car, the Gallery of Modern Art (Modern 2) and Grandson has remarked on these signs. He loves road signs and these, of a fox, a sheep, a goose and a squirrel, intrigue him. I assume that they're an art installation.

So the other day we went to inspect them and then visited the gallery for milk, cake and a little bit of art. The gallery used to be an orphanage, and Grandson walked round the building, imagining what the orphans used to do in the various rooms.
He was pleased that the children had a big garden to run about in.

You may notice to the left in the picture above, a black, um, thing which is also an art installation.

This proved...
 ... great fun. "It's a bus shelter," pronounced Granddaughter.

Then we went across the road to the other art gallery, Modern 1. "This," said Granddaughter firmly, "is a penguin." It was labelled Woman by Joan Miro. "Maybe it's a penguin that thinks it's a woman," suggested Granddaughter, unwilling to give ground.

"Or a woman who thinks she's a penguin," mused Grandson.

Then we had fun wandering around this artificial landscape, Landform by Charles Jencks: up and down the paths, examining  the ponds, considering how, though the land slopes, the water doesn't all flow down to one end.

"I like," said Grandson in an unusually poetic frame of mind, "the way the sunshine sparkles on the water. It makes it look like white emeralds."

And after a long time, we came home and, among other activities, they carefully painted the paving slabs with water.

They'll never remember any of this but I had such a lovely day with them.  

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Last Saturday was the first day of summer... apparently. Anyway, it was warm and lovely, so we decided to take ourselves on a minor jaunt across the water to Aberdour by train. Here we are, crossing the Forth Rail Bridge.

Just beside the station is Aberdour Castle, bits of which date from the early 1100s, though there were various developments over the centuries. The last part was built in the 1500s.

This is the oldest part. We got the guide book, which directed us to look on the ground for some masonry that fell a few hundred years ago, but it took us a while to find it, because we were looking for a few stones, not...

something this big.

It would have been quite spectacular to see it fall. They don't build them like that nowadays. Let's hope.

We wondered if there's anyone underneath it. Too late to dig them out now.

Then we wandered down the hill to the smaller beach.

As always happens at the first sign of serious warmth in Britain, people were doing seasidey things.

There was even a girl swimming. It was shirtsleeves weather but the sea must have been FREEZING. She didn't stay in for long. Wisely.

We just walked along by the harbour

and looked at Edinburgh across the water. There's Arthur's Seat, our hill in the city. It gives one a sense of perspective to look at one's home and one's little worries from a distance. I'm not sure that this perspective has lasted, unfortunately.

It's nice being retired, though.

And then we came up into the village again via St Fillan's Church, built about 1140 and still used as a parish church, though it was restored and given a new roof in the 1920s.

Ten years ago today, my father died. It's still strange and sad to think he's not around any more. Those years have gone quickly and have been quite eventful. I wonder if I'll still be here in another ten... . I imagine the castle and church will look much the same whether I'm there to see them or not, which is quite a cheering thought.