Thursday, December 28, 2017

The turning of the year

It transpires that when the family isn't here... nothing happens. Well, Christmas happened, and that was perfectly pleasant even with just Mr Life and me - or it was for most of the day. By the evening I was feeling rather unwell and spent the next day intermittently throwing up. I can't imagine that it was anything I ate - we had the same, except that when he had turkey and the trimmings, I had marinated tofu and a few of the previous day's baked beans. Yes, fine dining. I was just cooking the vegetables in the final run-up to dishing up his meal when it occurred to me that I hadn't done anything for myself, so I looked in the freezer and there were the marinated tofu pieces, which I microwaved with the beans. Should you ever come to a meal, please be assured that I'll try harder for you.  I'm not very interested in food; I mean, I quite like eating (as you can see when you look at me, alas) but never feel it a subject worth giving much thought to when it comes to my own food. People often ask vegetarians what they eat and I try to think of an interesting answer, when the truth is often an omelette. And lots of vegetables.

So possibly someone had sneezed on the tofu pieces in the factory - I threw out the rest of the packet, just in case - but I suspect it was just a bug, which I'm happy to say I didn't pass on to the old chap. Or not yet... .

We blame this for what happened last night. I sat down at the computer about 9.30 pm to write a letter to my aunt, glanced at the date on the screen and realised that it was our wedding anniversary. Oops. Forty-four years married and we both forgot (for the first time ever, I'd like to point out). To do him justice, Mr L was able to produce both a previously-written card and a wrapped little gift, whereas I ... um... I did look at cards a few weeks ago and none of them seemed right. Plenty of time, I thought. Sorry dear!

So we walked up town today and had a coffee to celebrate. He even had a brownie but I'm still feeling very slightly delicate.

We watched the passing throng, many of them wheeling suitcases, and wondered again why people come here in December. I mean, it was a nice day, if a trifle chilly. But June, people! Long, long days! The chance to take your jacket off! The opportunity to let the warm breeze riffle your hair, the sun kiss your upturned, unfrozen face! Just saying.

I'm writing to my aunt a lot because, sad to say, someone knocked her over with their shopping trolley in the supermarket at the end of November and broke her hip. This is the 93-year-old (or, she will be on January 1) who lives in Norfolk and who was up till that point in very good nick. Now, alas, though she's had a partial hip replacement, she can walk only a few steps, with considerable pain, and the painkillers are making her sick so that she's not keeping food down. We went to see her while we were at Daughter 2's before Christmas but Norfolk is a long way from Edinburgh. Fortunately my niece and my brother and sister-in-law are much nearer, and visit, and she has a very good friend who visits her more or less daily. But still, it's not at all good.

I've been uncheering myself up by going through my millions of photos and deleting many of them. Why did I take so many pictures of our beloved cats, most of them very similar? I've kept quite a few nice ones but no one needs hundreds of identical photos of much-mourned furry friends who died very young of genetic lung disease. Nor so many of my garden, which is still there, outside the house, should I need to look at it - though it's also somewhat depressing to see plants which mysteriously disappeared some years ago. And then there are pictures of my parents... can't delete any of them.

And I've still some years to go before I reach the birth of the first of the grandchildren, where I'll again find lots of more or less identical photos. However, I don't expect to find that so dejecting - just difficult to choose between them. So that'll be all right.

Anyway, I've also started cutting out a quilt for Biggest Granddaughter, which is more cheerful, isn't it? Lots of happy timewasting lies ahead of me while I do that. And we've passed the shortest day, so summer is on its way here - sorry, Australia and New Zealand. And the Edinburgh grandchildren come home on Saturday, hurray hurray, bringing their other, delightful, grandparents with them. So if we don't meet again this year, O bloggy friends, I hope you have a lovely New Year celebration and a wonderful 2018.

Saturday, December 23, 2017


Our Edinburgh grandchildren came for a sleepover last night before going down to Worcester to their other grandparents for Christmas. Here they are having a lovely time bursting the bubbles in bubble wrap. I love their intent concentration on this important task.

They departed this morning and have arrived safely. They've now met their newest cousin - cousins are arriving thick and fast at the moment - on their daddy's side. This baby, born at the end of November, has now supplanted Littlest Granddaughter as their youngest cousin! (though he's not Littlest Granddaughter's cousin, if you follow.) Grandson was delighted to acquire his first boy cousin.

So today we went up north to visit Son and DIL and sweet Middle Granddaughter, the unbloggable one. As you can't see here, she has huge hazely-green eyes and is very pretty and perfectly adorable. We hadn't seen her for an unusually long time (mainly because we've been up and down to London to see Littlest Granddaughter; also because of my two choirs' carol concerts) and I thought she'd be very shy of us, but in fact she wasn't. Which was lovely. We should see her again in a couple of weeks so I hope she keeps remembering us.

Here she is having a walk in the park with her parents and us. Her hat had a red bobble.

Meanwhile, Littlest Granddaughter is with her parents and Nottingham grandparents for Christmas. These grandparents are both great knitters; here she is modelling the lastest creations. Now, that's a hat.

And our house is quiet, which is how it will remain till the first wanderers return on the 30th. Mr Life, who enjoys a bit of peace, is quite happy about this. I'm ... ok. Of course the children should see their other grandparents. We'll survive. In my ideal world, all grandchildren should live round the corner from all their grandparents and should see them every day. It would be a lot easier for their parents, too, I would think. Alas, the modern world isn't arranged like that.

Pathetically, I also miss my parents, somehow especially at Christmas. Dad died 10 years ago and Mum 5 years. How they would have loved to see the little ones.

And, as I've said before, it's so strange how fast the house empties - from the days not very long ago when it bulged at Christmas with parents and aunts and uncles (actually only one uncle) and their foreign friends - now all gone - and our children - now scattered. Next year it'll be full again at Christmas, I hope, with our descendants and also my brother and his family. It's like in Philip Larkin's "An Arundel Tomb" (such a good poem) - "the endless altered people came". Life goes on. We eventually don't.

However, grandchildren are such a joy, and WhatsApp photos keep us in touch with their doings when we can't see them so it could be A LOT WORSE!

Have a happy Christmas, everyone, particularly those who make the effort to comment  - and an especial hello to Avus - lovely to hear from you again!

Monday, December 18, 2017

And it don't seem a day too much...

Fifty years ago today - 18 December, 1967 - when I was 17 and the future Mr Life was 19 - we went to my school dance. I was at a girls' school, so we had to ask boys as partners who (obviously) didn't go to the school. I knew and rather liked Mr L - but didn't at that point have it in mind to marry him. You don't think that far ahead when you're 17. Or at least, I didn't. However, he then asked me out and... fifty years later, here we are. I can't believe it's been that long. I don't feel nearly old enough.

So today we went out for lunch in South Queensferry. That black house is for some reason known as Black Castle and was built in 1626. Oh, I've just looked it up and it has horrible associations with witchcraft - the sister-in-law of the owner of it confessed to being a witch and was burned at the stake in 1643. How dreadful. And her husband had to pay for her burning and that of her supposed accomplice, which made him bankrupt. The owner's sister suffered the same fate. Goodness me. Anyway, this may be why it's black. Also it was once owned by a coal merchant - a rather more ordinary possible explanation.

South Queensferry is a pretty little town, as I've mentioned before.

It's built beside the famous (in Britain, anyway) Forth Rail Bridge (above)

and the road bridge (above) and more or less brand new other road bridge, which you can vaguely see behind it.

We sat looking out at these (from inside; this is December) as we had our lunch and compared our memories of that significant (as it turned out) evening in 1967.

Then we came home to find a beautiful bouquet and chocolates from our children. Indeed, if I hadn't asked him to my school dance... who knows? - they might never have been born.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Ten days to Christmas

We've been in London, visiting Daughter 2 and Youngest Granddaughter. We didn't do anything particular except cuddling the baby and going for walks, but it was lovely. I have lots of pictures like the one above and the one below (shawl beautifully crocheted by the other grandmother)

and this one - my lovely girls!! - (two of them, anyway) -

and here's the baby beneath the quilt I made - obligatory photo. Despite the evidence of these photos, she didn't spend much of the time asleep - though she does sleep reasonably well at night on the whole.

But, as I have said boringly often before, I hate leaving them in London. I do not like London. It's far too big, far too busy and far too far away. I'm so sad that the baby is going to grow up there. Why can't I be one of those mothers who say that they brought up their children to fly? I thought I brought ours up to live round the corner. Failure.

However, how lovely to hear from Besomom in the comments that her husband enjoyed his trip to Edinburgh (a much superior place, in my admittedly biased opinion). Thanks for telling me about his trip! I wonder why you're called Besomom? A besom in Scotland is a broom, like a witch's broom, or it can be a girl with a cheeky attitude - usually pronounced "bisom" in this case. But I'm sure neither of these meanings is relevant here.

Anyway, I must go and practise some rather tricky carols which I'm singing in a concert tomorrow. It's the second Saturday running - two different choirs - when I've sung in a carol concert. And next week I must do some shopping!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Walk by the sea

We had an outing with our walking group on Saturday in beautiful weather (yes, it can happen). We got the bus to Dunbar and then walked along the coast to East Linton, where we had an early Christmas dinner at the Linton Hotel.

There are very interesting rock formations at Dunbar - these seem to be red sandstone, weathered away in parts but resistant in others. We needed a geologist to explain them to us.

It was an easy path most of the way, so the miles sped past as we caught up with the news.

Gorse was still blooming despite its being December.

Towards the end, we came upon a ploughing competition which had just finished. There were lots of elderly tractors and enthusiastic drivers of the same, some of whom were wandering bashfully around with big silver trophies. It was so interesting to see people taking part in this traditional activity, not far from the city. I knew about ploughing competitions but had never seen one.

We walked up the road to the village just as they were all trundling up, belching out diesel fumes and somewhat spoiling the fresh country air. It would have been more environmentally friendly in the days of horse-drawn ploughs.

And then we were in East Linton, which is a rather pretty village

with some traditional East Lothian red rooftops.

Such a lovely day out - though after seven miles we were glad to sit down and eat an excellent dinner.

Friday, December 01, 2017

A bloggy acquaintance (who seldom posts these days but who is still wandering in the blogosphere) has asked the following question in a comment:

"My husband is going to be in Edinburgh for business soon. He's never been there before. He will have a bit of free time on Dec. 9 and 10 (a weekend). I'll suggest he go to the light display at the Botanics. Is there anything he shouldn't miss while he's in town? He is an experienced world traveler and enjoys walking around by himself taking in the sights. He also likes live music. Sometimes I ask him to look for souvenirs for me (he's very bad at this, so I never hold my breath). What would be a good souvenir from Scotland?"

She probably expected me to reply in the comments, but I can never seem to do this. It tells me to sign in (I am signed in, surely) and I don't like to do anything untoward in case Blogger becomes offended.

It's an interesting question, though. What would I recommend a visitor to do in a bit of free time in December? Firstly I would recommend not coming in December. The weather can be beautiful, eg today, but on the other hand it can be wet and misty and a bit miserable - it's totally unpredictable. And it gets dark early in December. In addition, these days Edinburgh in December is full of Christmas markets in tacky sheds, and lit-up rides and stuff - and not looking at its best. If I were in charge... hmm, bah, humbug... But the town is always full of tourists. Presumably it's cheaper to come in the winter, but... don't.

However, B's husband is coming then so I apologise in advance if he gets wet.

But Edinburgh is still beautiful at any time of year.

I don't know about the light display at the Botanics. He'd have to book (Google Edinburgh Botanic Gardens) and I don't know about availability, but anyway unless he's a great fan of darkness and pretty lights it might not be worth the money (and the trouble of finding his way there in the dark). He wouldn't be able to see the gardens to any extent. If he likes gardens, better to go during the day (when it's free) - though December isn't the best time for them either.

Assuming it's not teeming down with rain, Edinburgh is a very walkable city. I suppose I'd walk through Princes Street Gardens (the bit that's not full of Christmas markets) and look up at the Castle and the skyline in general. Then maybe cross the road and plunge up, say, Hanover Street, glance along George Street and then down into the New Town (a planned extension to the older city, begun in 1760) via Dundas Street, which has art shops and antique shops, and just wander about a bit, looking at the Georgian architecture. Then come up again to Princes Street and walk up the Mound to the Old Town, possibly wander up to the Castle (he could of course go round this but he probably wouldn't have time) and then down the High Street (the Royal Mile), looking at / walking briefly round St Giles Cathedral, ignoring all the tartan tat shops, looking at John Knox's House (1600s) and then continuing down to the Scottish Parliament (a marmite building if ever I saw one) and Holyrood Palace, and perhaps into Holyrood Park, glancing admiringly up at the hills. If he went slightly up a hill, he'd get a good view of the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, dating from the 1100s.

By this time, he'd probably be quite weary but there are various cafes around where he could sit down and rest. I think you can go to the café at the Palace without actually paying to go round the buildings.

Alternatively, he could do one of the walks round the Dean Village, which is quite scenic, and walk along the Water of Leith. I'm sure there's ample info about this on the internet.

If he likes art, there are two galleries in Princes Street, both very obvious (they look like Greek temples) and he could get a free bus to the Galleries of Modern Art if he liked. He could then go down behind Modern 1 and walk along the river a bit till he reached the slope up to Roseburn (there are always people around to ask) and then go back to the main road there and get a bus back to the centre.

If he does get buses, he should note that they don't give change! £1.60 for a single fare anywhere and all-day tickets for £4.

As for live music - there are classical concerts but if he means music in small venues, I don't really know, but I'm sure various pubs are also music venues.

And Scottish souvenirs - well, it depends what you like! I myself like everything in Anta, which is a shop in George Street (between Charlotte and Castle Streets, ie at the west end). This sells genuine Scottish craft goods - not cheap - made from pottery and fabric. You could look at their website!

If it's too cold and wet to walk about, I'd suggest the art galleries (above), the Portrait Gallery in Queen Street (in the New Town), The Georgian House in Charlotte Square (New Town), the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street (in the Old Town), the Castle (which is only partly indoors), Gladstone's Land (near the Castle), the Palace, John Knox's House - all quite interesting if he likes history.

Any good for a start?