Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Scottish people, including some women

Goodness, I now feel rather embarrassed, as if my previous post was saying that I was going to go away unless lots of people told me that they loved me. That's not what I meant at all. But thank you so much to those who said they'd miss my meanderings. It's given me food for thought! 

On Saturday we were at a surprise 70th birthday party for one of the friends of our youth. Here you can sort of see her at the door, having been handed some flowers and going "Argh!" as she sees us all standing there and bursting into "Happy Birthday". It was really lovely to see her (she lives some distance away) and the others of our local group of (once) young people who had reassembled from various parts, two of them from 400 miles away in the south of England.

Today was cold and drizzly so I took myself to the Portrait Gallery to have a wander around. They have an exhibition called "Scottish Heroes and Heroines" or something of the sort. It was good that women were included. It's about time! Here's Thomas Carlyle, looking very pleased with himself.

This is Flora Stevenson, about whom I knew nothing except that there's a primary school named after her. It turns out that she was the first woman elected to a school board after the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act, which made primary education mandatory (good) but said it had to be exclusively in English, not Gaelic - which led to a major decline in Gaelic speaking (bad). Not that Gaelic was ever spoken widely as far south as this. Anyway, this wasn't Flora's fault. She was then the first woman to chair the Edinburgh School Board and did lots of other voluntary and worthwhile stuff.

I love this: the notice beside the painting of David Roberts (1796-1864) by Robert Scott Lauder says that he's in his traveller's disguise, "worn to look inconspicuous"! It was probably true when he was travelling in the Middle East but he rather fancies himself in it, don't you think?.

Here's James Boswell. I've read so much of his diary writings in the past few years: his Edinburgh diaries, his London diaries and his account of his journey to the Hebrides with Dr Johnson. I've also read Dr Johnson's own account. I like this portrait of the young James, looking - suspiciously? calculatingly? sadly? guiltily? (he had quite a bit to feel guilty about) - at the painter. He didn't know at that point how famous he was going to become. I wonder if he would have been surprised to find himself there.

And look at poor John Runciman in his self-portrait - he'd been bullied by a jealous painting rival, destroyed most of his work and then died of TB at the age of 24. So sad! This is one of the few of his paintings to survive.

On the way out, I said hello to Robert Burns, who probably didn't look like this at all (there are no portraits of him from his lifetime), and who would also have been surprised, I imagine, to see this statue with its wreaths celebrating the recent Burns Night.

See? A totally grandchildless post.

(Ooh, there's a fox barking outside the study window. This has happened a lot recently. Can it be the mating season already? Bit chilly, I'd have thought. (Have just Googled it, and yes, it's the start of the mating season.))

Saturday, January 26, 2019


This isn't going to be my last ever post, but I'm seriously considering whether I'll stop blogging quite soon. The main reason is that my blog is largely a record of our family life, for my own - what? - pleasure? interest? sense of continuity? - probably all of these. And maybe for my descendants in the future. Mr L keeps suggesting that we should get it printed so that, if they wanted to, they could find out what the family was doing at the beginning of the 21st century. It's quite a good idea. (Mind you, it would be quite a long read.) 

Because I can't post pictures of Middle Granddaughter and won't be able to post them of the forthcoming Smaller Grandson, this makes it a much less satisfactory record. 

Also, I increasingly feel that the older grandchildren, now 7 and nearly 6, shouldn't appear in a recognisable form in a public blog, so I mostly post pictures of them from behind and so on, whereas I would like them to appear (for history's sake) in more meaningful photos. 

So I won't stop writing this account of our lives, but it might be better from the photo point of view just to write it as a Word document with clear photos, and print it for myself. After all, there are so many lovely photos in my computer, but how many of them will actually survive changes in technology? - not that many, I'd imagine.

I've been blogging for, I think, 12 years now, and almost all of my original bloggy friends have fallen by the wayside as far as blogging is concerned. One has died. Some have faded out. Some of them are now Facebook friends. But Facebook, though I do enjoy it, isn't the same. It's too easy to post a few photos and make jovial remarks about them - rather than to compose a longer, sometimes more thoughtful piece. I had a real sense of connection in the earlier days, with lots of comments to and fro and a feeling of sharing people's lives. 

Most of those who do still blog do it increasingly rarely. You know who you are! So I keep hopefully going to their blogs and - finding nothing to read. Though I will continue to do this for the occasional happy surprises. 

Part of me feels that I should therefore stubbornly continue; that blogging is (was?) a valuable thing and that I shouldn't join the defectors. But there are few comments on my blog nowadays and I don't feel I know who reads it - a fair number, I think, but who are they, and why would they want to know about my grandchildren? 

However, the main reason for stopping is my desire to keep a record of our family life, complete with photos of all our grandchildren. I've always felt the need to record things, to write, to communicate, and now I'm thinking of the communication with - hopefully - my descendants once I'm no longer here. 

Meanwhile, here are two of my darlings - Biggest Granddaughter playing with the dolls' house

or deep in books.

Grandson arranging his Brio into layouts

and drawing trains with excellent restaurant cars. 

Wistfulness has also been fostered by going through my parents' effects. This photo is of my parents in 1996. Mum was 74 - she really doesn't look it. That was the natural colour of her hair - it only started turning grey when she was in her late 80s.  Dad was 76 here. It's nice to see them enjoying the sun in Portugal but it makes me sad too, of course.

Anyway, things change. I can't quite bring myself to stop this very weekend. But that's the way I'm thinking.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

More fun than dusting

On Saturday we went walking by the Esk, very near Edinburgh.

It was very Januaryish weather - dull and quite cold, though not icy or windy.

Then we walked along by the sea into the city. You can see Arthur's Seat, our city hill, on the horizon. It's lovely to get out even in winter and fill your lungs with fresh air.

On Sunday the Edinburgh grandchildren came, and Biggest Granddaughter "arranged a dance party" for herself in the dining room, decorating it with her mother's rainbow scarf. As you do.

She drew a cheerful unicorn.

And she, her brother and I played Heads, Bodies and Legs, which made us laugh.

Today we visited Son and Middle Granddaughter, the Unbloggable Toddler. (DIL was at work.) Actually she's nearly 2 and a half, and hasn't toddled for ages - she's very nimble and climby and bouncy. We went to the Dundee Science Centre, Here she is with her father, playing with magnets.

She picked up a magnifying glass and looked through it. "Hmm, interesting," she said. Son offered her a drink of water. "That's very kind of you," she said politely. (She's spent quite a lot of time with adults.)

She's a lovely little person and accepts us very well now - though sadly we'll always be the second rank of grandparents to her. Ah well. You can't have everything.

Friday, January 18, 2019


Daughter 1 and I went to an interesting exhibition of 19th century Scottish samplers. My photos are fairly terrible, presumably in a poetic-justice sort of way because, as the attendant pointed out after a while, one wasn't supposed to be taking photos. Oops. So we stopped. The samplers were pretty amazing. Should you happen to be in Edinburgh (you're not, though, are you?) then I would recommend a visit.

They're from the collection of an American lady, who's done research on the (mainly) girls who sewed them and the context in which they were sewn.

The same patterns recur a lot, such as this hound chasing rabbits (though we felt it was a bit more like a cat).

Letters, names, maps, houses, all amazingly neatly done by girls of between 8 (8!) and 16 years of age.

I've been going through my mum's photos and WhatsApping them to the family by photographing the photos with my phone. Again, this doesn't lead to high quality images. Look at my (blurry) girls, though! Where did the time go?

And here are my parents and myself at my grandparents' house, presumably at Christmas, since there's their scrappy little Christmas tree in the background. My brother must have been taking the photo. I look 10 or 11. Sadly, the only survivors from this photo are the tablecloth and me. My granny was so lovely. Why is no one looking at the camera or indeed looking cheerful, apart from me? Maybe my brother hadn't warned us he was about to take the picture.

These are photos I'm managing to throw away. My parents went on lots of lovely holidays to Europe and America, all documented with lots of pictures, and I'm trying to be firm, keeping only the best ones. It's not easy. And there are lots of other archives apart from that.

And here's one of my amaryllises, reminding me of why I give them windowsill space for 360 days of the year while they look exceedingly boring: to enjoy their bright trumpetiness for the other 5.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Home again, jiggety jig

I've just come back from a long weekend with Daughter 2, SIL 2 and Littlest Granddaughter, the latter seen here removing the money from my purse. Littlest is such a sweetie but not a good sleeper. They've tried everything - the method that I thought infallible wasn't, in her case. Currently they're trying the soft approach, which involves (among other things) having slow Mozart playing on a loop - quite restful (for the adult) as one sits with a lightly dozing baby in one's arms in the stilly watches of the night. As Daughter 2 says, when Littlest's grown up she might inexplicably find herself dropping off when she hears this particular piece of music. Or, on current evidence, she might not.

We went out for coffee. You know that piece of film when you're asked to count the number of yellow balls (or something) and this causes you not to see the man in the gorilla suit walking through the ball players? Well, that was me with this photo. It's only now that I see the couple at the table behind Littlest. What were they talking about? Littlest appears to be finding it interesting, judging from her expression.

I took her to a playgroup. I've been to this one before and was shocked, both times, at the behaviour of some of the child-minders, who sat in a row chatting and looking at their phones, more or less ignoring their charges while other mums/carers kept an eye on them, helped them down slides and stopped them bashing other children (or other children bashing them). I'm sure there are lots of good child-minders out there too, but these ones certainly don't do their job properly. It's not that I can't see the temptation to view playgroup as a little break in their hard days, but I wonder what the parents would think if they saw this behaviour. And it's just wrong.

We went for a walk at Chingford. Do you see that white, three-storey building directly to the right of Daughter 2's head? Henry the Eighth built it in 1543 as a viewing stand from which to watch deer-hunting. It was restored for Elizabeth 1 in 1589 but she seems to have gone there only once (bit of a waste of money, then). We didn't see any royalty though, or deer. We would have visited the lodge but it's shut on Mondays. (Our family does rather specialise in visiting places on the one day of the week that they're not open. You'd think we'd never heard of the internet.)

And now I'm home and rather in the dumps because I'm missing my girls, but I'll probably feel better tomorrow.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Fun with short people

On Monday, suffering from grandchild-withdrawal-symptoms, I kidnapped the Edinburgh pair and we went to Jump In, a trampoline (etc) centre, where they had a jolly time.

Like this.

Then we came back to our house for the rest of the day and the night. They played with Brio.

Eldest Granddaughter took a break to draw a picture. It's of a bedside table with: a lamp, a cheese sandwich, a book and a cup of tea. What more could anyone want, really? And on the other side, a sleeping bag with matching pillow.

The tables were part of the layout.

As I sat watching them, I noticed the one Christmas item that failed to get put away with the other Christmas decorations several days before. There's always something, isn't there? No prizes for the first correct answer, I'm afraid.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Doing things in January

Goodness, it's been quiet since they all went away. We haven't even seen the Edinburgh family for a few days because the other grandparents have been staying and we like to allow them their turn in peace. But Daughter 2's hyacinths are blooming beautifully (thank you) - I so love the scent of hyacinths.

Mr L and I took ourselves for a walk along the river. It was pretty wintry-looking, though not cold.

We visited the Modern Art Gallery, where we didn't look at the art but did have a coffee in the cafe

and then walked out again, past the Landform, where no children were playing.

We've chatted to Littlest on the phone.

How amazing we people of last century would have found it to be able to see people we were phoning! I remember that in discussions of the outlandish future possibilities of this, people used to say: what if you were phoned up and you were still in your pyjamas? or the house was a mess? We were envisioning a huge tv on the wall, like Big Brother, I think.

And while going through my mum's stuff (yes, this is the year, 6 years after her death, when I'm going to sort it out) I found this photo of my father's mother, whom I never really knew, since she moved to the south of England when I was about five. Here she is at 71, only three years older than I am now. She looks older than me, to my eyes, but possibly I'm fooling myself. (Maybe it's the hat.) Sadly she developed dementia a few years later. We did see her a few times after she moved south, but travelling was more difficult then and she didn't really have much of a part of our lives. Which is sad.

And I've spent two sessions in the garden, cutting things down and admiring the snowdrops which are bravely pushing through with their promise of spring.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

And then...

On Christmas Day, Son, Daughter-in-Law and The Unbloggable Toddler came down - Son was working on Christmas Eve and again on the 27th, so they could only stay one night. We all went to the playpark. Here's The Unbloggable Toddler swinging...

... and here's Son with his niece, Littlest.

The house was quite full with us all in it. Just for that one night, there were 11 of us sleeping in the house - and with four bedrooms and two bathrooms, that's quite a lot, especially as TUT needs a room to herself because she's only recently become a good(ish) sleeper. It was fine, though. At the fullest point, we had Niece in the sitting room on a sofa, Daughter 2 and SIL 2 in the dining room on a blow-up bed and Littlest in the study... well, at least for the part of the night when she slept... .

And there were 15 to dinner, which would be easy enough if there weren't six vegetarians among us, some of us rather fussy. (Or - looking at it another way - if the other nine weren't carnivores... .) Also, one son-in-law is diabetic and the other has a nut allergy. But we all got fed.

It would have been even easier if I hadn't had a rotten cold and sore throat (which I later passed on to my sister-in-law - so sorry!) and Littlest hadn't been keeping some of us from sleeping rather a lot.

Look at her - she has a completely clear conscience as she prepares to empty my recycling bin

and, for the umpteenth time, takes all the Elastoplast and micropore tape and antiseptic ointment out of the drawer.

Then, on various days, all the young ones went away, alas, and then my brother and his wife and the pair of us went to the BP Portrait Exhibition in the rather impressive Portrait Gallery. The portraits were amazing.

This one won first prize. I love it.You can't see it very well on this postcard, but some of the items on the table look as if they're magically spinning.  

We walked home afterwards. I would hate to live somewhere so big that you couldn't walk home if you really wanted to.

Then on Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) we brought in the New Year at Daughter 1's, which was lovely,

and later she and her family, including her lovely parents-in-law, came to dinner with us and Mr L's cousin.

And that's what happened in the last couple of weeks - except that today we heard that Son and Daughter-in-Law's new baby, due in May, is a boy. Grandson is very happy. "Yay!" he said. "It's not usually a boy." ("It" being a new baby in the family - though actually he does have a baby boy cousin on his dad's side.) He is the patriarch of the cousins.

And we're all excited and looking forward to meeting the New Unbloggable Baby. Or NUB.