Sunday, October 02, 2022

Faster than fairies

Last week we took the train over the bridge to Kirkcaldy (pronounced Kir-coddy) to see the Jack Vettriano exhibition at the art gallery there. I don't know if Vettriano is famous abroad, or even in England, but he's quite famous in Scotland, being from Kirkcaldy. He's self-taught, and the art establishment tends to look down on him (one gathers) - maybe because of that but also because it doesn't consider his paintings as having artistic merit. Also, the subjects are a little bit sinister sometimes, and very much suggest a rather shady story behind the pictures. He always paints from photos, never from life, and sells his paintings for lots of money. Anyway, it was very interesting. 

He taught himself to paint by copying postcards and also prints from auction catalogues. Above is the real Monet; below is his version. 

Sometimes he changed them a bit. 

After a while he developed his own style and sold two paintings at the Summer Exhibition, after which he applied to Edinburgh Art College and was rejected because his "portfolio does not meet the standard". So he just went on painting. 

This is a very famous one of his - "The Singing Butler" - though it's not clear to me that the butler actually is singing. A lot of his paintings are of people in formal clothes - though sometimes he paints women who're more scantily clothed.

This one is "A Date with Fate". 

This one is "Live Art Show". 

I wouldn't actually want any of his paintings on my walls - they make me feel uneasy - but they seem good to me. Though what would I know? 

There was a little film about him, in which he says that for him, narrative is essential in painting. You can definitely see that in his work.

And then we had a little walk around Kirkcaldy, past this old milestone, saying that Dysart is 2 and three-eights miles from there. Very precise! My great-great-grandparents lived in Dysart, and their son, my great-grandfather, was apprenticed to a house-painter in Kirkcaldy. We have Great-Grandpa's indentures from 1869. Sadly, he died at 40, but not before fathering 8 children, 7 of whom survived him. I can't imagine how his widow managed. 

Then we walked down George Street, where Mr L lived for a while as a boy. 

And yesterday we were back across the bridge, this time by car, to visit Son and family. 

Which was lovely. The children are adorable; I wish we saw more of them but... it is what it is - as people tend to say these days. 


And so the days rush relentlessly on. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Going gentle

On Saturday, Daughter 1 and I took the older grandchildren on the train to the Science Centre in Glasgow. Biggest Granddaughter, a bookworm, took 5 books to read on the train. One doesn't want to run out of reading material on a 50-minute journey. 

It was a beautiful day, which made it a pity to be going inside. However, I suspect it also made the science centre less crowded than it often is. 

Glasgow isn't Edinburgh, that's for sure. 

But it does have its merits. 

We built an archway. 

And looked at the way that sand moves. And generally had fun. I hadn't been at the centre with them since the summer before Covid, when they were newly 8 and 6 and a half. It was quite different going with them now that they're 11 and 9 and a half. Grandson was explaining things to me. 

Meanwhile in London, Littlest Granddaughter went to a pirate party, 

and here in the Botanics, today, autumn is creeping beautifully into our lives. 

Autumn isn't my favourite season: too much of the dying of the light and all that this connotes. 

But look at this lovely poppy - lovelier in reality than in my photo -

and nicotiana, still flowering away

and cotoneaster berries. 

There are compensations. And I shall attempt to be still here once the world turns round again. 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The good, the bad and the very impressive

We went away for a long weekend - last weekend - with our walking buddies. For the third - fourth? - time we hired the same lovely house in the English Lake District - Wordsworth country. It's so beautiful there. This is the view from the sitting-room window. We have a finely-honed routine: arrive Friday afternoon, lasagne and salad plus Sheena's sticky toffee pudding for dinner (building ourselves up for walking in the fells, we tell ourselves). Then a hillwalk on Saturday, which is always billed as not too testing, and isn't, apart from six miles of climbing hills and usually finding the odd bit of rock-scrambling not entirely designed for people in their seventies (and early eighties, and one aged 91 who is the fittest of us all). Baked potatoes, salad, cake and soft fruit on Saturday night, another, marginally less hair-raising, hill walk on Sunday, dinner out on Sunday night, a shorter, flatter walk on Monday morning, and home. 

Simple! Except...

The minute that Sheena arrived, she was very sick (in the British sense of throwing up, not being elegantly wilting). She went immediately to bed and was much better in the morning, Saturday, putting it down to food poisoning - she had had some prawns. She joined us in our jolly, 15-person walk. 

The weather was perfect - not hot, no wind. 

We happily tramped into the hills

and admired the views of the valleys below, where we'd come from. 

You can see why Wordsworth wrote poetry. 

And we got home and had dinner and then in the course of the evening, five others became inelegantly unwell. 

So the next day, Sunday, only 10 of us tramped into the hills. It was beautiful. 

We climbed up, 

Then towards the end of the walk, two others began to feel ill - including my poor husband. 

Back at the house, these two vanished to bed and we phoned the hotel where we'd booked dinner to say, sorry, there were going to be 8 of us instead of 15. Then, shortly, another bit the dust. So we phoned again to say, look, there were only 7 of us left - maybe it would be better if none of us came? But they said no no, just come. So we did, dubiously.

By the next morning, Monday, we were down to 3 - 2 of whom were beginning to feel a bit dodgy. I was the only one feeling fine. 

We all managed to get home and recover. I was still ok and by Tuesday night was congratulating myself on my superior immune system. Then at about 11.30pm on Tuesday... and all night... and a bit of the next morning... . 

I slept most of Wednesday and then felt sort of ok. 

So we convalesced in front of the tv and watched and wondered (retrospectively) at the Queen's funeral. There's no doubt that the British do pageantry well. The red uniforms! The furry hats! The feathery helmets! The marching and the bands and the processing and the multiple lifting and putting down of the coffin by very young men (I couldn't look, in case they'd dropped it a couple of days before and it had somehow not made the news), the solemn faces, the singing. I can't even begin to imagine what it all cost (and our economy's in shreds anyway). But it was impressive, you have to admit. 

Which is why (thank you for your concern, Virginia) I haven't posted for a while. And also of course, quilting. 


Thursday, September 15, 2022

What's happening in the autumn sunshine

Well, the Queen has been getting around - rather too much, some might say, though clearly the ritual of it all is thought important by many people. Here, her coffin is brought up the Royal Mile from Holyrood Palace to St Giles High Kirk, with her children - all in their sixties and seventies - walking up behind the hearse. Just as well they're all quite fit - it's only a mile, but it's uphill and they're being watched and endlessly photographed by thousands of people. 

And then there was a service in St Giles, with lots of fancy uniforms, before she lay in state for a day. 35,000 people are said to have filed past the coffin. That's a lot of people, waiting a lot of hours in a long queue. I don't really get it. She was a good egg. She was very dutiful. It's sad for her family that she died. But all that those people saw was a flag draped over a box. 

Meanwhile the centre of Edinburgh ground to a halt, so we had a walk along the river

and I admired the late summer in the garden.

The weather has been beautiful. 

Then the next day, she was taken down to London for much the same again. As I write, people are queueing for up to 9 hours in London to view a different flag draped over a box. 

Daughter 2 took Littlest Granddaughter to London Zoo yesterday and today Littlest G went to school! And she was born only yesterday! Everything changes. 


Sunday, September 11, 2022


So Queen Elizabeth is dead. We sat on Thursday watching the news unfold - actually for hours it was the non-news, though it was fairly obvious that the BBC knew that she was on the point of death. 

And then it was announced that she had died, and a fortuitous rainbow appeared over (I think it is) Windsor Castle. But of course, she died in Scotland - where she was the only Elizabeth, not Elizabeth II, (though the BBC appears to be unaware of this).

The next day we watched the 96-gun salutes all over the country and Commonwealth. This was Belfast. 

And this was Jersey - love the uniforms. So twenty-first century... .

And then today we drove home from Daughter 1's as the crowds assembled for the funeral cortege coming later from Balmoral to Edinburgh for tomorrow's lying in state in St Giles.  

It was interesting seeing the familiar streets not far from us, from the air, 

and the crowds lining the roads and clapping. Lots of people taking photos. I wonder if they were there mainly to show respect for the Queen or mainly to say they were there on this historic occasion - both, I'd think, but which more? 

My school history teacher lived in this house.

And here's Edinburgh's New Town. 

Here's the Old Town, the Royal Mile which runs between the Castle and Holyrood Palace. 

And this is the Palace, with the hearse arriving, the coffin draped tactfully in a Scottish flag. 

I was amazed to find out that Anna in Indiana had been watching it too! 

There's no doubt that the Queen's death has stirred emotion in so many of us, me included. I'm no passionate royalist, but it's impossible (I'd think) not to admire the Queen, thrust into this position and fulfilling her role until two days before her death, when she received Liz Truss smiling and standing up. Amazing. I don't think she was an intellectual, but she was sensible and dutiful. 

And it brings other things to the surface too. At our age, we can remember her when she was quite young. We can remember our parents when they were quite young. And now none of them is here any more. Of course, that's what happens; and that's what will happen to us and to everyone. Normally I don't dwell on it much, but the past few days, with their enormous media coverage, have somewhat thrust thoughts of mortality to the forefront of our minds. 

Poor old King Charles III. If he'd succeeded to the throne, say, 25 years ago, he could have made his mark on history already and be beginning, now, to ease off a bit and allow William to take the strain. Instead, at nearly 74, he has to start the job and do something memorable in his (who knows how many?) years in the job. Who would envy him? 

It's a very strange system and I'm glad to be a commoner. Here's a little garden posy - one of life's simple pleasures.