Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Life is nothing but fun...

The main reason we went to Galloway was to visit The Book Shop in Wigtown. Wigtown is a pretty little place which has reinvented itself as a book town, with lots of second-hand bookshops and a Book Festival, which is happening shortly. 

The owner of The Book Shop - the largest one in Scotland, he says - is Shaun Bythell, who has now published two books about his experiences while running the shop: "Diary of a Bookseller" and "Confessions of a Bookseller". I would greatly recommend them - they're very funny, and it's also quite interesting (and sobering) to read what he says about the effect that Amazon has had on the book trade.

We follow him on Facebook (The Book Shop, Wigtown) and he posts funny videos set in the shop so it was SO EXCITING to be there.

On that vintage typewriter on the table is a piece of paper which says

and there are various other admonishments and wry quotations posted around the shop.

I'm an avid reader of published letters and diaries so was very happy.

Shaun wasn't there, which was a minor disappointment, but we would have been much too shy to tell him how much we enjoyed his books and anyway, he can be very scathing (in his writing) about customers so we'd have had to be on our best behaviour. Which of course we were anyway, and bought lots of books. (Oh dear.)

Though we didn't meet Shaun, we did meet Captain the Cat, which was almost as good and less scary.

Yesterday we visited friends who took us to The Hill House, designed for the Blackie family by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and built from 1902-4. CRM was a wonderful architect from the artistic point of view but not so good on the practicalities, and the house is now, as the director of the Scottish National Trust says, "dissolving like an aspirin" because of various issues with the way it was built.

So a huge roofed cage has been built around it to keep the rain off till it dries out and then some lucky person will decide what to do about it.

The cage includes a walkway so that you can go up round the outside of the house and look down at it. This walkway is made of slatted metal so that you can see how far up you are, which is a bit AAAAAAAGH,  which is why my photos are mostly from lower down.

There's a nice view over Helensburgh to the sea.

Inside it's just the same as before, marvellously preserved with much of the furniture. Here's the sitting room...

and here it is a hundred years or so ago, with a ghostly Mrs Blackie reading her book. Well, the house has lasted longer than the people, so that's something.

Flat walking and flowers

I deleted this post by mistake (and the comments - sorry) but it went something like...

The next day we had a comparatively easy 5-and-a-half mile walk round Buttermere.

It was very peaceful. And more or less flat.

We had lunch by a stream. Or beck.

And on the last day, we walked up the River Cocker from Cockermouth: 6, partly muddy miles - easy walking.

Such a lovely few days with much companionship and many laughs, including when someone had too steamy a shower and set off the fire alarm and then someone else burnt the toast and set it off again.

The owner of the house claimed he'd be willing to have us back again... .

And then everyone else went home and we drove to Galloway in south-west Scotland for a little extra holiday.

We visited Logan Botanic Gardens, which have a very mild climate because of their proximity to the Gulf Stream and can thus grow many nearly-sub-tropical plants

such as these tree ferns, which made interesting shapes in the sunlight.

And then we visited nearby Castle Kennedy Gardens, built round this 14th century castle.

As at Logan, there was still lots of colour.

The grounds amount to 75 acres and are very lovely.

There's a big house but it's not open to the public. I think the Earl of Stair values his privacy.

And then the next day...

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Fun, fear and flood

Last week we drove down to the Lake District

and stayed in a house with this view from the back garden, with our walking friends.

On the first morning, we walked up from Rosthwaite. It was a lovely day and the views were spectacular.

Naturally we had to stop now and then to admire them.


and up

 and up

and up.

Then we started going down again

and we thought:

 this is a comparative doddle.

But then it wasn't. It became impossible to take photos because we were descending on rock - well, you might call them steps, but they were very steep and slanting and unevenly spaced, so that some of them were quite far apart, and you had to keep your eyes firmly on your feet because the risk of falling was considerable. We're all seventyish and it wouldn't have been convenient to break a leg. This went on for a good half hour. It seemed more.

However, none of us did break anything, mercifully, and we got down safely. After quite a long further walk, we returned to the car park.

The house is very nice - we were there last year too - but sadly, there was something wrong with the hot water - there had been none the night before or that morning. But hurray, hurray, the owners of the house managed to persuade a plumber to come out, and the hot water had been restored by the time we got back. Someone who shall be nameless managed to cause a minor flood by not noticing that the drain to his shower cubicle was (invisibly) blocked, but after a lot of mopping, the water had stopped dripping out of the downstairs light fitting and all was well.

And that was the first day.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Nothing much happening here...

There's a nip in the air in the evenings now and the days are shortening. We walked along to the Gallery of Modern Art the other day. The equipment for the children's summer activities is still there, but deserted.

No one was running about on the Landform, because the children are all in school. (And I'm not. O joy.)

We walked back along the river, which was flowing slowly.

I've been cutting out the quilt for Daughter 2's friend's baby, which is due very soon. She wants it to be blue, in self-colours. (Anna asks what self-colours are, and I couldn't think of what Americans call this, so had to consult Mr Google. Solids. Aha.) I did sneak in some patterns on the corners of the squares: the baby needs something interesting to look at, I feel. (Actually, I'm going to put some more patterned fabrics on the back, but the mum doesn't need to look at this. Architects (eg D2 and her friends) do sometimes go for minimalism - I'm lucky she didn't ask for a grey and black quilt.)

I'm going to fiddle around with the arrangement and add a border, but this is the rough idea. 

Monday, September 09, 2019

Why the days aren't long enough

The children came as usual on Friday and played a very complicated sort of obstacle course of their own devising. It involved various stations around the garden at which: their backs were killing them and they had to have a massage; their feet were hot so they had to bathe them; they were bored so they had to go and look at flowers in the park; they needed to build a tunnel (in the sandpit); and... I forget, but this amused them for ages.

On Saturday I met up with ex-colleague friends for coffee-merging-with-lunch at South Queensferry.

I arrived slightly early and wandered around in the sunshine. Our venue was that white building to the right of the middle of the picture.

 South Queensferry is a quaint little place, not designed for the motor car.

D had to go before we got round to taking photos. One of our number, R, is considerably younger than the rest of us and is sadly still working. This is one of the worst times of year at college, when one's desperately trying to learn several hundred names and also trying to be entertaining so as to make the students optimistic that it's going to be a fun-filled year.

J took us to see the amazing Queensferry mural which has recently been erected.

There's the Burry Man on the left (a chap goes around the town covered in burrs - don't ask why).

Daughter 1 has become 40. I would like to be 40 myself.

I've started on a cot quilt for Daughter 2's friend, inspired by something I saw in a blurry picture on the internet. The friend suggested I do it in self-colour blues but I'm cheating slightly, with small cornery bits (not the technical term) of faint pattern. Once I'd started, I found, as usual, that it was rather more complicated than I'd imagined, and realised that if I'd simply gone for fabric in two shades of blue, it would have simplified things considerably. But by then I had the idea in my head and somehow felt I had to continue. One must pursue one's Vision.

It's going to be something like this, though I've now rearranged the crosses.

And so life goes on.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Searching for Hugh MacDiarmid

Oh, I do love bloggy meet-ups! Margaret, who's a retired French teacher from Washington State, came to stay for a couple of days before going up north on a group tour. It was such fun and she's so lovely - just as I was sure she would be, from her blog. Her grandfather was a first cousin to Christopher Murray Grieve, pen name Hugh MacDiarmid, who's a huge name among fans of Scottish poetry. He was born in Langholm, in the Border country, so Mr L kindly drove us down there on a pilgrimage. Firstly, we tracked down Hugh MacD's memorial - which wasn't quite where it was marked on the map. We drove up a single-track road for some distance - I hope Margaret didn't think this was an elaborate plan to kidnap her - until we spotted it. It's quite large once you get there!

Personally, I'd have put it in the village for ease of visiting - on the other hand, there are lovely views once you've found it.

Langholm itself is set among the hills.

We almost found his birth house - it's number 17 in a road which has numbers 15 and 19 and then in between, a sort of muddly building which appears to have a house at the front and another in the back. However, we paid homage to the general area.

We also followed signs to the library, having discovered that the family moved to a flat above this, where CMG/HMacD grew up. Having failed to locate the library, we then later happened to pass The Old Library, which was clearly the right vintage. So we waved to his shade in the windows above.

At that point we decided to have a cup of tea, and entered the only cafe open in the village. It's called Truly Scrumptious. It wasn't. The woman in charge somewhat grudgingly allowed us to sit down, saying, "You can have coffee, but not tea. I've switched the urn off. We close at 4." At that point, it was about 20 to 4. You'd have thought she might have managed to boil a kettle, even if it was too much bother to keep the urn on. However, coffee was all right. She didn't offer anything to eat, but luckily we weren't hungry.  Scottish hospitality at its best (though she did have a southern English accent... ). They probably don't get a huge number of tourists.

Which will be why the tourist office was shut (on a Saturday afternoon). But the cleaner was there, and when I asked her for directions to the cemetery, where CMG/HMacD is buried, she told us how to get there. "Is it walkable?" I asked, and she assured me that it was.

Well, she was right. It was quite a long walk, the kind where you go, "Do you think we're nearly there, or will we go back for the car?" and then you decide that it can't be much further. And it is. And then it's up quite a big hill.

But we got there. We knew that he was in plot F17 (or something - can't quite remember) but sadly none of the plots was marked, and there were a lot of gravestones. After we'd all searched for a considerable time and were about to give up, Margaret found it - hurray!

So that was a lovely, if slightly hilarious, day.

The countryside is very pretty.

After that we drove home, vaguely trying to find the cottage he lived in for much of his adult life, but this time we failed. But we got the general idea.

The next day, Margaret and I went to Holyrood Palace. The palace is nice enough but I really covet the garden. You wouldn't think it was in the middle of a city. That's our city hill in the background. The ruins to the left of the picture date from the abbey's founding in 1128, though the abbey church is in slightly better condition (though still ruined. It was plundered by English troops in the 16th century. But we forgive them. I'm sure the Scots did some plundering in England also).

The following day we went to the Botanics, where Margaret bravely sampled the iconic Scottish soft drink of Irn Bru (pronounced Iron Brew). I warned her that it wasn't my favourite. You can see what she thought of it. I couldn't quite think of how to describe it in advance but she identified the taste as like cough medicine, and I couldn't disagree. But she'd read about it in Rebus books and now she knows not to have it again.

And now she's off on her tour and I've started to think about my next quilt. A friend of Daughter 2 is having a long-awaited baby and she wants a cot quilt all in blue and all self-colour, which I shall find an interesting challenge.