Thursday, September 28, 2017


We've just come back from five days in Stockholm. Fortunately almost everyone in Sweden speaks amazing English. Our Swedish is, alas, practically non-existent, though it's easier to understand when it's written down than when it's spoken. For example, see the fine map above. Easy, eh?

And this makes it fairly clear what you want to spray on a fire, doesn't it?

Stockholm is very lovely (though horrifically expensive, argh) and we had a good time.

We went on a couple of boat trips with interesting commentary about Stockholm's past.

We visited the Vasa museum - greatly recommended. The Vasa is a huge warship which sank twenty minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628 with the loss of about thirty lives. Can you imagine how the boat builders must have felt, standing on the shore, watching it? There was a design fault which made it top heavy and it just toppled over when a wave hit it. Perhaps fortunately, the designer had died a couple of years before, so he was well out of trouble. The Vasa lay at the bottom of the Baltic, not far out from shore, till the 1960s, when it was located and raised and was then conserved for the next 17 years (and continuing). A vast museum has been built around it and it's amazing to walk round it and imagine the work that went into its building; and the worry, the panic, the misery, the guilt, the fear that must have surrounded its sinking.

It had brightly painted statues and other carvings - hundreds of them - most of which were also retrieved. A model has been built of it, its carvings painted with the carefully-researched original colours. It must have been quite a sight. Briefly.

Because holidays mean frantic activity for us - and also because we needed to get full value from our very expensive Stockholm Passes - we also visited various palaces and museums, such as the Royal Palace, which is very beautiful - they did themselves very well, the Swedish kings. Again, we found out quite a lot of Swedish history that I hadn't known, so it was very interesting. I hadn't realised that Sweden was such a huge power for a couple of centuries. Strangely enough, our school history lessons tended to dwell complacently on British successes - mainly English ones.

The current king's garden is impressive but I feel he needs more flowers. This photo isn't of him.

Yesterday we went to the Botanic Gardens, which are very different from Edinburgh's. In general I think ours are more lovely, but it has to be admitted that theirs has a better lake.

And the burning bush tree in the Japanese garden was stunning. I wonder if I could fit one into my little patch?

It was wonderful to get home, though (I HATE flying) and I can't wait to get my hands on our little castings-on, the grandchildren (or two of them anyway) tomorrow.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Casting off

When I was teaching, one of the texts that I did with classes many, many times was Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman". I first saw it when I was very young myself and then taught it, on and off, over a career of nearly forty years, and I now realise that I appreciated it in different ways at different parts of my life.

Now that I'm quite old, I marvel at how Arthur Miller, who was 34 - 34!!! - when he wrote it, had such insight into how an older person feels. I know that he partly based Willy Loman on his father, so I wonder whether some of the things in the play are direct quotes from the family. One that resonates with me a lot nowadays is when Willy is bemoaning change, and his wife Linda says to him, "Life is a casting off. It's always that way." How did Arthur Miller know this? By my age it's obvious, but when I was 34 I was busy having our third child and being the centre of lots of exciting things and I didn't really think about it.

But now... our children (reasonably enough) are living their own exciting lives, our parents are dead (that's a hard one) and friends will soon, no doubt, start to drop off the perch (unless we do so first). And recently my remaining aunt let me know that the wonderful Norfolk house that she lives in, where we've been so lucky to holiday for the past 30+ years, is being sold. It's a long story but she retired there with friends, including the much-younger husband of one of the friends, and they agreed that the house should actually belong to the younger husband. It got partly divided into flats for various of them. And she's lived there very happily for 35+ years, but now only she (92 and a half) and the much-younger husband, now for some years the widower, of her friend are left, and he is nearly 76. So very wisely he's selling up and she will go into a home.

Which is of course much worse for them than for us - though my aunt is taking it very philosophically - but very sad for us too.

Ah well. Life is a casting off, it's the same for everyone (much worse for some, I realise) and it's always that way. But it's also quite hard.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


On Saturday we went with our walking friends to Cramond,

and walked along the river bank to Cammo, round the Cammo estate,

and back again. We're lucky to have so many apparently rural places within the city boundaries.

Then yesterday we walked along to the Modern Art Gallery and saw a wonderful exhibition of British Realist Painting. Beautiful pictures, some by names I didn't know at all. There was one by James McIntosh Partick that I would have happily stolen, of the view out of his Dundee window on to sunlit bare trees in the gardens and his wife hanging out the washing - it's just lovely, what with the traceries of the branches and twigs and the bright washing. (I doubt if the clothes would have dried, though, since it was clearly winter.)

And then we walked home again, past the Landform (above)

and along the Water of Leith.

There was no wind to disturb the reflections on the water.

It's getting quite autumnal but there's still quite a lot of colour in the garden: sedum,

Japanese anemones,

more Japanese anemones and montbretia (the yellow variety since I don't like orange)

and autumn crocuses.

The other grandparents are up visiting. We were invited to lunch (great apple pie, other grandmother!). Here's Grandson doing one of his absolutely characteristic activities

and Granddaughter-the-Elder, the bookworm, in her new slippers.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Roads and things

Daughter 1  had a birthday last week. Happy birthday to our sweet girl, who copes so well with various difficulties that life has produced for her.

Last weekend, Mr Life and I went to an antiques fair, where we bought a non-antique road sign for Grandson to use in the garden. He hadn't been very well but was inspired to go out and put it in a suitable place.

He then drew a sign to go with it, to justify the 20-mile-an-hour speed limit. (This warns of loose chippings on the road.)

The next day he drew London's Tower Bridge from memory. Architecturally it's not quite right but I was interested that he remembered it at all. He hasn't been in London for over a year. He does love roads. And drawing.

And talking of bridges, we drove for the first time over the recently-completed new Forth Road Bridge to visit Son, Daughter-in-Law and The Unbloggable Baby.

There are wind baffles which impede the view somewhat but the bridge has the advantage of a hard shoulder so that when cars break down it won't be so much of a problem. Buses and taxis will now use the old bridge.

We went for a walk - here you can see Son carrying his daughter. She's very cute, as you'll agree. Sadly, she isn't yet very familiar with us but we hope that this will come as she gets older. We'll never know her as well as we do the Edinburgh little ones, though, alas.

And here are the ducks which rushed towards us when they noticed Son with duck food. They're very tame and really quite chunky.

I do hope that all American bloggy friends are safe and weren't affected by the hurricanes. How terrible for those who've lost their homes or their livelihoods. It is, as my granny used to say, a funny wee world.

Friday, September 08, 2017


Now, the thing about blogs is that they often present just the sunny, happy side of life, so for the interests of accuracy, let me record what happened to Arran on our second day. Compare the lovely picture of the bay and Goatfell in the background below (Saturday) ... and above (Sunday). You may notice a difference. Yes, for the second and indeed the third days of our long weekend, it rained.

 The second day was wet and the third day...

was less wet but mistier. Hard to say which was better. However, we mainly drove round the island and visited old haunts, including the Lagg Hotel, below.

One of our distantish relations once managed this - owned it? - but currently I can't quite think who. My mum would have known. I did write down various bits of Arran information relating to our family while she was alive but I can't quite think where I safely put this.

The surnames of our Arran family were Currie and Sillars and these are still common names on the island. I must say that I rather wish we lived there... but it would make seeing the offspring rather more tricky.

Eventually we gave up and got a slightly earlier ferry home. Here we are in the queue.

Of course, this is all nothing compared to the suffering of people in the path of that terrible hurricane over the other side of the world. My heart goes out to them.

After a bit of a gap, I got up the resolution to continue with Daughter 2's cot quilt top.
I had previously made these 9-patch squares. Then, with trepidation, I cut each of them into quarters, swapped round the top right hand quarter with the bottom left hand one and sewed them together again. With the result below. It would never in a million years have occurred to me that this is how the lady in my quilting book got this effect, but fortunately she added instructions. It will then have wide white borders.

And then I decided to do a very easy, unmatchy, patchwork back. This was very quick! But I prefer the front.

Such fun though, yes, a complete waste of time!

Hello to the kind people who've added their comments to my earlier post. Still not 60 of you, though!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


Well, that was interesting. Thank you so much to those of you who commented and thus identified yourselves. Hello! Lovely to make contact! But as I suspected, there weren't 60 of you; indeed, some of those who commented weren't actually among the 60. Anyway, hello to everyone who reads this, whether I know about you or not.

Scotland is a small country and no part of it is more than 41 miles from the sea (according to Google). We have more than 790 islands, 94 of which are inhabited. One of these is the island of Arran, which we visited with our walking friends last weekend.

Here it is, as seen from the ferry. The village at the foot of the hills is Brodick, where we were staying. My great-grandmother was a Brodick girl, and met my great-grandfather on the ferry as he was coming to visit his sister, who had married an Arran man. They married and had three children but she sadly died when my grandmother, the middle child, was five. My granny used to come to Arran for her holidays and stay in Brodick with her aunts and so did my mother when she was a little girl. We've been quite a few times and are very fond of it.

This is Brodick Castle, owned now by the National Trust but then by the Duke of Hamilton, who owned the whole island. One of my granny's aunts was lady companion to the Duchess for a while - presumably in the late nineteenth century - and one family story is that she was on a yacht with the Duchess when they... ran aground or were shipwrecked or something. This seemed slightly unlikely, but we had a guided tour of the outside of the castle on this visit (the castle is closed for renovations) and the guide was saying that the Duke at that time owned and sailed yachts. So there we are: it's probably true.

There's been a building on this site from the 5th century but the current castle dates at its earliest from the 1200s, with later additions up to the 19th century. The gardens are beautiful, with lovely views to the sea, though these must have been even better before there were so many trees.

This is the view from our hotel. The hill you can see is Goatfell, about 2866 feet high. Some of our group climbed it on Saturday, but it's quite a slog and others of us decided to go on a flatter walk, along the shore from Brodick to Lamlash and back, which is just over 9 miles.

The weather was perfect.

Not too sunny - we didn't get burnt - but warm enough to keep the midges away and completely windless.

The walk was quite tricky in parts - stony and hilly and scrambly (I didn't take photos of this because it seemed more important not to fall over) and rather muddy in others.

But later on the path improved and flattened out

and we strolled into Lamlash for lunch.

Then we climbed up over a higher part of the island - pausing to admire Goatfell -

and back down into Brodick. It was a lovely day, though at the end of the walk we were rather aware of our muscles.