Monday, February 26, 2018


We are so privileged to share the lives of these little people. Granddaughter is a real bookworm. She's off to school in August - I do hope her love of books continues. Grandson is a very competent reader but, at our house anyway, he's always too busy doing something else to sit reading.

For example, this is his drawing of a thunderstorm - with, of course, a train and carriages at a level crossing. Yes, they do look a bit like a giant anteater followed by some sheep, but Grandson informed me that it's an electric train, which is that pointy shape. I think that's what he said. He knows much more about such things than I.

Granddaughter is beginning to draw quite well and she drew him a traffic light as a present, and then made it into a card for him, inscribing it carefully with his name and hers. In return, he made her a card with bunnies (she is a bunny fan). We particularly like the different views of the bunnies. All this is very awwww for a granny. (They do have occasional disagreements too, I should add for the sake of accuracy.)

Today we had friends for the day and went to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which is a fine building, we think, with lots of fanciful friezes featuring Scottish history.

Now, I've possibly mentioned before that I've been making triangles. Slowly. I looked at various tutorials on the internet but none of them actually mentioned what seemed to me the main problem: that obviously you have to have a seam allowance at the ends of your triangles, or the tips would be cut off when you sew them on to whatever you're joining it to. The ladies demonstrating this show themselves quickly sewing triangles together but then not on to anything else. Of course to anyone with good spatial awareness, it's probably obvious what the answer to the problem is. But I am not that person. After a bit of experimentation with scrap fabrics, however, I realised that if you sew two triangles together, you'll make a seam and then when you turn the triangles back to the right side, the point of the upper triangle will be lower than the seam - leaving a bit of fabric above the point to sew into the next strip - as above (ignore the leftmost point in my photo - I'm coming to that). (I'm sure this isn't a clear explanation, but I could show you easily enough. Should you care.)

But then the demonstrating ladies (do men make patchwork, I wonder?) stop joining their triangles, leaving them looking much like my picture above, and I think to myself - but the leftmost point is at the top of the thing, with no seam allowance to sew in to anything. How is that going to work? And of course the answer is...

that once you put the next ( green chevrony) triangle on, you cover up the original point (as you've been doing all along) and make a new one, thus creating a seam allowance. As any fool would understand. Except me.

I'm sure you either knew this already or have skipped my somewhat inadequate explanation. But surely one of the ladies must have been as dim as me at some point - or must at least have met someone as dim as me - and would have thought to explain, or even better to show, how the magic worked as she went along, instead of just being all airy about it and whizzing around on her machine and saying "and you just continue like that and sew it to the next row bla bla bla."

When you're teaching, you have to make sure that your explanations take account of the possible ignorance of your pupils. I once taught a whole lesson on Norman McCaig's wonderful poem "Toad", covering all the vocabulary, imagery, structure etc that I thought anyone might not have noticed, and then at the end, one student asked me, "But what's a toad?"

Anyway, I'm going to conquer triangles, though they may be slightly wonky... .

Granddaughter said to me the other day, "I had a very clumsy day at nursery today. I knocked my milk over two times. It was very embarrassing."

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The lovely and the not so lovely

Saturday was a beautiful day and we went to East Lothian with our walking friends. We met this interested pony.

The walk was mainly flat, though this path went uphill for a while so that there was a good view in all directions.

The reflections on the water were very pretty.

But the main feature of the day was the woodland round Smeaton House, which was profusely carpeted with thousands and thousands of snowdrops.

When I think of the few little clumps that I've nurtured in my garden...

well, maybe in a couple of hundred years they'll look like this. So lovely.

Meanwhile I've nearly finished Biggest Granddaughter's quilt top, except that I decided that I should incorporate some triangles in one border and pretend to be a proper quilter.

I've practised, not very impressively, with some bits of old curtain lining. Clearly my accuracy isn't up to much. (Who knew?) However, after one rather better attempt, I've started to cut out actual fabric. I'm not confident...

Thursday, February 15, 2018


We went to an exhibition a few days ago - Modern Scottish Art, 1900-1950. As we suspected, we were more impressed by the earlier than the later paintings, though I do quite like this one. Stupidly I didn't write down the artist's name. I wouldn't necessarily want it on my wall, but it has a certain fishy charm (and doubtless other characteristics that eluded us).

Then we had coffee and cake in the café and gazed out of the window at the wintry sunshine.

We walked to and from the gallery, which might have gone part way towards working off the cake. You think?

Another day we went up north to visit Son, Daughter-in-Law and Middle Granddaughter. Son took us to a soft play centre. These places didn't exist in our children's day - or at least there was one, called Little Marco's, which was a delightfully relaxing day out for parents because it was all on one level and we mainly just sat smiling indulgently as our offspring trotted busily past. Nowadays they're built on various different levels and you have to follow your little ones as they race up squashy stairs, through tiny doorways, between padded rollers through gaps not designed for the plumper granny and along wobbly bridges (ditto). However, it was good fun and she's very sweet. Above you don't quite see her in the ball pool, one of the more restful features of the place.

And here you don't quite see her having some lunch. She's getting to know us a bit, I think, which is lovely.

Meanwhile, Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1 and their two were visiting Daughter 2 and co. in London. Daughter 2 WhatsApped us various of Grandson's sayings, eg

"It's so nice to be in bed with you, Auntie [Daughter 2]. And this nice bouncy pillow."

"I love you more than I love [Littlest Granddaughter]. But she's cuter."

"She has a tiny tiny head. It's about the size of two tennis balls. And fluffy. It's more round than a normal head, though. More like a sphere. You and I have normal heads - more like 3D ovals."

They're now back in Edinburgh - we saw them briefly at the station this afternoon but I can't wait to see them at greater length tomorrow.

Now I'm off to try making patchwork triangles... Thanks for the various pieces of advice, patchwork experts. Think positive thoughts for me!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Rushing around

Our visit to Daughter 2 was dual-purpose: to see her and Littlest Granddaughter but also to visit again my aunt, who's now in a care home in rural north Norfolk in the south of England - which is not at all handy for Edinburgh.

Up till November 30 my aunt, now 93, was living independently and having a lovely life, but on that day a Tesco employee, pushing a large container on wheels instead of (as is the rule) pulling it behind him so that he could see where he was going, pushed it into her shopping trolley and knocked her over, breaking her hip.

She's had a partial hip replacement but is now scarcely able to walk and is permanently in a care home - never having been able to go back to her own home to sort out her things. Fortunately she has very good friends, including one who thinks of her as his big sister, and who has done so much for her. But the fact remains that her life has been ruined.

To make things much worse, she's extremely deaf and totally reliant on hearing aids - and one of these got lost at the rehabilitation home she was in after being in hospital, so till she gets a replacement she's more or less cut off from the speaking world. And she's hardly eating at all and is now very thin. I think she's really given up. Of course, she's 93 and many people don't get that far. But there's no comparison between her life now and her life less than three months ago. It's so sad.

She has no children, but my brother's family and mine are all very fond of her so have been visiting her when possible. It's quite a faff to get to her from here, and even from Daughter 2's home in London it's not that easy. Daughter 2 kindly said she'd come and bring the baby for Auntie to see again, so we hired a car and drove there, staying overnight in the village so that we could visit both days. It's very hard to think of things to say to someone whose life has shrunk so much - and who can't hear you unless you bellow in the ear that has the remaining hearing aid. Luckily my brother and my niece live not so far away and are able to visit more often - but it's still quite a trek to the village. I write to her every second day because she can still read.

So that took up two days of our five days down south. Another two were spent travelling down and up again. On Tuesday, however, we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum because Daughter 2, though she's on maternity leave, had a meeting that she wanted to go to since it might provide work for the company and she knew more than her colleagues about what this might entail. The meeting was at 2, so we went to the V&A for lunch, she fed the baby and set off, while Mr L and I wheeled the (fortunately sleeping) baby round the museum.

Look at this! It was carved out of rock crystal about the year 1000 and I WANT IT. I shall put it on my Amazon wish list.

And this - made about 1545. It's quite large but I'd find a place for it easily.

And this - about the same date. Another lady was looking at it with me and we admired it. She said that she wanted it. I didn't like to tell her that I saw it first so obviously it was mine.

Now, of course no one approves of ivory but wow, the workmanship on this.

All these teeny pieces!

At this point, Daughter 2 phoned to say that the potential clients had rung at 2 and postponed the meeting till 4! So she would come back and feed the baby again.

While waiting, we admired this dress, made out of hand-embroidered fabric.

Look! How many weeks would that take to do???

Daughter 2 reappeared, fed the baby and rushed back to her meeting, and Mr L and I battled through the hot, crowded London transport system and returned to the flat. Luckily Littlest Granddaughter's feeds are supplemented by bottles, so we were able to keep her going till her mum returned.

How lovely she is.

Including when she's asleep.

And now Daughter 1 and her family are down in London visiting Daughter 2 and family, so we don't have any grandchildren around. Mr Life is quite enjoying the peace for now, I do believe... . But I'm missing them all.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Baby baby

We've been down in London visiting Daughter 2 and Littlest Granddaughter.

And now we're back. Leaving them doesn't get any easier.

To be continued...

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Quotable quotes

I've been piecing a quilt for Biggest Granddaughter - using the same design as I used for Littlest Granddaughter's, only there are going to be triangles in one of the borders. (Possibly. I've never done triangles so we'll see.) I'm intrigued by how the pattern is achieved, which I, not being a person with much spatial awareness, wouldn't have thought of. You make nine-patches, as above, and then cut them down and across, thus:

and then rearrange them thus. (Don't look too closely.) And then sew them all together and so on. I'm sure it's a common patchwork technique but I'm easily impressed. Her favourite colour is yellow and she wanted lots of animal fabrics, including guinea pigs.

I've got quite a long way to go yet.

Daughter 1 and I took her and her brother to the Camera Obscura on Saturday. There were lots of optical illusions to amuse them. It's such fun to be a reasonably large part of their lives.

I said sentimentally to Grandson the other day, "I hope that when you're a big boy, you'll remember coming to our house to play."

He looked at me in amazed dismay. "Can't I still come here when I'm a big boy?"

Of course you can, my darling boy!

I do love the things they say. The other day, Grandson looked in the cupboard in what used to be Son's room and discovered the Lego trainset. He bore it downstairs and said with warm satisfaction, "You never know what you'll find in a good cupboard."

Meanwhile biggest Granddaughter played with Lego pirates. "The pirate raft," she murmured to herself, "sailed elegantly past the railway."

And on Tuesday, she and I went to the Botanics. It was rather chilly but then the sun came out. "That's nice," she remarked. "I can feel myself relaxing already."

Oh, they're such a joy!