Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hail Macbeth

We took ourselves up north for a two-day mini-holiday to visit some places that we've always meant to go to. First we went to Scone (pronounced "Scoon") Palace, the home of the Earl of Mansfield. The main part of the building isn't particularly old, dating from the early 1800s, but there are bits of the mediaeval house - in which lots of historic things happened - inside it. It's a lovely house and, as with many stately homes these days, is still lived in by the family but is also used for weddings and corporate events.

Their lands are very extensive and they have pleasant gardens, with better lupins that I can manage at the moment. Clearly the Earl doesn't have my slug problem.

This is one of his Highland cows - pleasantly fluffy to keep it warm in the cold Scottish winter.

Then we went on to Branklyn, a lovely garden with lots of mecanopsis (beautiful!)

and primulas and rhododendron. I never manage to keep mecanopsis for long, I think because they get smothered by other things. My garden isn't big enough. Unlike the Earl's.

The next day we visited Glamis (pronounced "Glams") Castle (as in "Hail, Macbeth, thane of Glamis"), the childhood home of the Queen Mother. Here she is with her mother, we assume, on one side and - well, who knows? a sister? on the other. She came from a big family. This portrait, which isn't actually blurred as in my photo, hangs in the kitchen, which is now the café.

Like most old buildings, it's had lots of bits added over the years. The main part dates from the 14th century, so as Macbeth lived in the 11th century he was never actually in this version of the castle.

We rather liked this guinea pig's headstone, though weren't very keen on the Earl of Strathmore's use of inverted commas.

He too has a pleasant garden. He's in his 30s and unmarried, so I imagine is going to be a good catch for someone.

And then we went on to an antiques centre, where I nobly didn't buy anything, and after that we came home again. Two-day holidays are the way forward, I feel. You don't have to pack much and not too many weeds grow in your absence.

Sunday, May 28, 2017


It's been very warm, and yesterday Son-in-Law 1 and I took the little ones to the beach. They had a lovely time. Slightly unusually, Granddaughter-the-Elder and I took part in an octopus rescue.

Pardon my ignorance, but I didn't know we had octopuses here. Now I know that we do. This one was small - only about a foot long, I'd think, if it were extended - and orange, with the standard eight tentacles. It was amazingly like the sort of octopus you'd expect to see in some Pixar animation. The tide was coming in and it had been washed into the shallows beside the groyne that you can see to the right of the photo.

Grandson, Granddaughter and I found it first, but Grandson, having enquired if it was alive (yes) soon decided that it was scary and retreated back to his dad. Granddaughter is made of sterner stuff. First we tried to return it to the sea by scooping it with her seaside spade, but it soon washed in again. It was wiggling its tentacles in what I assume was a frantic fashion, and whoofing with its top bit. You'd have thought it was gasping for air but presumably it wasn't exactly doing this.

By this time other people had appeared and one youngish woman suggested putting it in a bucket and taking it into deeper water, which seemed a good idea. It wasn't exactly keen. She scooped it in and it promptly tried to escape, leg by wriggling leg. Then it desisted, presumably preferring the bucket to the wider world. She nobly decided to walk along the horizontal bar of the groyne to get to a greater depth. The bar was about six or eight inches wide and the water wasn't more than about six feet deep (I imagine), so it wasn't a death-defying exploit, but walking along a bar just above ground level is one thing. Doing it - carrying a bucket full of a squirmy thing of which you are slightly afraid - fully dressed, above cold Scottish water, with (by now) a large interested audience, is quite another.

She got some distance without incident but then reached a young couple who were sitting on the groyne. She couldn't get past them so asked them if they would tip the octopus into the water - an easier feat from a seated position than a standing one. They agreed, but when they tried to do so, it resisted and tried to climb out of the bucket. The girl screamed and shoved the bucket back to the woman, who nobly took it. Then she screamed too - too many legs, I imagine - but got a grip on herself and upturned the bucket. The octopus hung on for grim life for a few seconds and then succumbed to gravity and fell into the water. And the woman returned safely to dry land and cheers. What a heroine.

Unfortunately I had left my phone on the rug with Son-in-Law so I have no photographic evidence of this valiant deed. You'll just have to believe me.

Friday, May 19, 2017


On Monday we went through to the west to visit friends, who took us to Greenbank House in Clarkston, where there was a little Embroiderers' Guild exhibition. My friend B is a member of her local branch. Some of the items were for sale, but not this one, which is just as well since a) it would have had to be sold for about £10,000, considering the length of time it must have taken to make and b) B and I both wanted it. My phone photos of it are seriously poor, but it comprises 48 squares of about four inches, all different, in black and grey embroidery with black sashing. It looks as if it's done on faintly patterned fabric but if you look closely, you can see that all the background pattern, like these paisley shapes above, is actually embroidered. (Though I didn't photograph the whole thing (why not? I ask myself) I know there are 48 squares because I said, "There must be about 50 of them," and Mr L said sternly, "No, there are 48" - which in my view is "about 50", but I suppose if you marry an accountant you have to expect him to audit you.)

Anyway, it was seriously impressive and I can see why the maker wouldn't want to sell it.

The house, which now belongs to the National Trust, looks very attractive (it wasn't open) and as B remarked, you could just about imagine yourself living there - it's not a vast super-stately home. And the gardens were lovely. It was built in the 1760s by a chap who traded in tobacco and slaves, but his business was disrupted by the American War of Independence (well disrupted, Americans) and he went bankrupt and had to sell it.

It had rained heavily the previous day - unlike in Edinburgh, where it hasn't rained apart from the odd spot for weeks now - so the grass was slightly muddy.

B's husband D suggested that this was a statue of me doing my Zumba class. Yes, there's a striking resemblance... though I wear more clothes.

Look at that! A grandchild-free post!

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Gosh, it's been a busy couple of weeks. My two choirs had their concerts on consecutive Saturdays, so one week I was frantically polishing up the hard bits of Mozart's "Coronation Mass" (which is in four parts and relatively short) and the following week I was even more frantically making sure I knew the fiendish parts of Handel's "Israel in Egypt", which is in eight parts and quite long and tricky. They're both wonderful to sing but the Handel particularly is fairly exhausting.

On Tuesday we went up to see Son and DIL and the Unbloggable Baby, who is such a cutie, with huge blue eyes. She's nine months old now, and crawling. She has an fixed ambition to chew their cats.

We had lunch at Dundee Botanic Gardens, which are pleasant but not as impressive as the Edinburgh ones (which are, moreover, free to visit, unlike Dundee's). The weather was lovely. Indeed, the weather has been unfeasibly lovely for weeks: Edinburgh was the driest part of Britain in April, which has meant practically not a drop of rain. The garden is parched (or, as parched as a Scottish garden gets).

Sweet feet. I miss them.

Grandson was ill all week with a fever and sore ears. He didn't eat much; and since his usual physique is like a piece of string, he became alarmingly skeletal, with every rib visible and his spine all knobbly. We spent quite a bit of time helping to entertain him, but thankfully he's much better now.

Then today was Mr Life's birthday. He's now in his 70th year. How on earth did that happen? (and me only 35, too...). How many more good years do we have, I wonder?

Daughter 2 is expecting a baby in October. She's had problems in the past so we're all hoping that things go smoothly for her this time. Then we'll have four grandchildren, though alas only two in Edinburgh and thus available for intensive grannying. When this one is 15, we'll be 82 and 84 if we're still here at all. A sobering thought... .

Monday, May 08, 2017

Sunny days

Another grandchild-heavy post - apologies, but at least Nanny and Gramps in Worcester will like it. We've seen a lot of the little ones recently, partly because there have been a couple of days off school - the Edinburgh holiday and then a voting day.

I took them to The Yard on Sunday. There is a working traffic light, which Grandson obviously likes.

And a large sandpit with water trickling into it. Granddaughter, who is a woman who enjoys personalising an outfit, wore her swimming sunhat.

What a good idea: leave paint and large lumps of cardboard around and let the children slosh about.

Another day we went to Cammo, a country park not far away which is just grass and trees and a ruined house. We had a picnic and a scavenger hunt.

She dressed as a flower fairy.

We had a visit to Dalkeith Country Park, which has lots of things to play on.

And they also enjoyed Granny's garden, with soapy water poured on the grass for splashing through,

while, later on, their Daddy pretended to be a crocodile.