Saturday, January 28, 2023

Here be dinosaurs

Big Grandson (11) still spends a lot of time drawing street scenes featuring buses, or railway lines with trains. He takes great care to make the vehicles as accurate as he can, though lately he's been comically filling these worlds with polar bears - or at least, versions of the polar bear cushion that he possesses. As he wisely says, they're easier to draw than people. I like his use of strong colours. Isn't it fascinating watching grandchildren grow up?

We went on a lovely walk last Saturday with our walking chums. We were fortunate in the weather and I feel fortunate too that I can still walk reasonable distances despite my "severely arthritic" right hip. 

This is the River Esk, just outside the city. 

We ended up in Musselburgh and sat for a while, enjoying the sunshine. 

This archer points his (imaginary - not sure why) bow over the river, in the direction where various arrows are to be found, symbolising the Roman occupation and various other historical events which took place around here over the centuries. 

We had a visit to the Botanics, admiring the signs of spring, hurrah. Snowdrops, 


and viburnum - very fragrant. 

I have at last finished Small Grandson's quilt. I very much doubt if he remembers asking for it in about August (he's only 3) but I hope he still likes dinosaurs. I held on to Medium Granddaughter's dragon one till both were finished - will she remember? Who knows? And we were going to take them up today, but sadly I've got Covid. I vaguely thought I might be immune... but no. I'm not terribly ill - it's just like a bad cold - but need to keep away from people. And I can't smell anything, such as the hyacinths in the dining room. 

I keep thinking that I ought to try a more complicated quilt. But not for a 3-year-old. And I'm not sure whether I really want to challenge myself. I just like fiddling around with fabrics, seeing what it all looks like when sewn together, and hand quilting in a sort of let's-see-what-this-looks-like sort of way.

Still, my amaryllises are starting to bloom. 

Before I knew that I had Covid, I took the Edinburgh Two to a trampoline centre. They are so lovely. I am so lucky having these two here - though of course I wish the others were too. 


Monday, January 23, 2023


Time's winged chariot has been galloping on, as it does. It was quite nice weather for a while

and then it was cold for a week. There was only a wee smattering of snow but it hung around, and the pavements were frosty and thus potentially slippery, which is not good for not-so-young people who are keen not to fall and fracture anything, especially at the moment, when we're told that hospitals are bulging. We're certainly in a bit of a pickle in Britain at the moment, with striking teachers, nurses, railwaymen, postmen, ambulance drivers et al. 

Anyway, instead of striding along the pavements we went to the City Art Centre, which has four exhibitions on at the moment, three of them very interesting. The first was just of what seemed a fairly random collection of things relevant to Edinburgh from the archives. I dare say that curators had thought long and hard about what to display, and they decided on a mixture of objects, documents and photos that had been rediscovered during the reorganisation that they did while Covid held us in its thrall. 

For example, this sampler - I can't imagine Big Granddaughter, who's 9, doing this, though actually we got sewing at school from age 7 and I was quite neat even then (by the evidence of the lapbag and shoebag I produced) so maybe she could. (Currently, however, she's writing a graphic novel in her spare time. I'm not sure it has much plot yet, but it's an ambitious idea.)

And then there was this washing machine. Yes, quite. Many blessings on the inventor of the automatic version.

On another floor were lots of photographs from the 1980s of shops and workplaces, such as this sporran workshop

and this bagpipe maker's. 

I think this photo of a brushmaker's shop is rather beautiful, with the light shining through the windows.  

Can things really have been like this when I was a young woman? Cafes aren't like this now... .

And then there was a floor of photographs taken by women photographers in the 20s and 30s. There was also a long film, a silent one, about life in Shetland in the 30s. We saw this lady washing clothes in a wooden tub outside in the snow, and then hanging them up, as above. If I ever complained about housework, I never will again (well, not this week, anyway). We saw the Shetlanders, men and women alike, ploughing (sometimes with a hand plough, sometimes behind a horse or a cow), reaping, winnowing, planting, harvesting, and gathering peat and seaweed in huge creels - it was exhausting just watching them. And the women, at the same time as toiling up hills or cliff paths with creels full of peat or seaweed, were knitting. 

Knitting things like this...

Here's the interior of a kitchen, with the fire in the middle of the room and a skillet over it for cooking oatcakes or pancakes - small ones that we eat with butter and / or jam, not the big bubbly ones that you roll up. English people sometimes call our little pancakes "drop scones" or "Scotch pancakes". Delicious. 

Here are girls on St Kilda - which was evacuated in 1930 because the islanders decided that life there was too hard. These girls are holding gloves that they hoped to sell to tourists. They look as if they're wearing their best clothes. I'm amazed to think that people in the 1920s would take the very difficult sea journey just for a jaunt. I would love to go there, but would hesitate - it's a long way from anywhere.  I know there's somewhere in Australia called St Kilda, but I imagine that it's not a remote archipelago away out in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. 

Anyway, it was all very interesting and made me very conscious of being a southern softie. These people would have continued their lives unaffected if there had been shortages or strikes. We would scarcely survive for a fortnight without supermarkets and electricity. 

Meanwhile, have I started the decluttering, which would not have been a problem for those hardy Shetlanders in their bare houses? Hmm. Not as such. Thanks for all the interesting comments. Nice to know that I'm not alone in my need to thin down the contents of the cupboards. 


Thursday, January 12, 2023


On Tuesday, we drove up in the rain to Son's house, because the school teachers were on strike and the children were therefore not at school. We met them at a soft play/trampoline centre. The children had a great time. Son is a very good, active father. 

At home, he rigged up a string and they all played badminton with a balloon. The little ones were surprisingly good with their racquets, though it's much easier with a balloon than with a shuttlecock. Again, it was good fun. The walls and ceiling look interestingly striped in this photo, though they're actually plain cream - the stripes are the effect of light coming out from a shade with slits in it. 

It's been quite a social week - coffee with eight ex-colleagues on Monday at my house - we meet up every Monday for an hour or so, which is a great way to keep up with one another without any great effort on anyone's side. One week we're here and the alternate week at another person's, and if someone can't make it one week it doesn't matter because there's always the next week. Then Tuesday - up north. On Wednesday I had lunch with three schoolfriends - we were in the same class from the age of 5 to the age of 18, and meet up every three months. So that was lovely. And today I had coffee with another friend and we compared the progress of our arthritis and discussed the vexed question of what the best time is to downsize. Despite how this sounds, we had quite a jolly time. We also talked about books. 

The downsizing thing is really difficult. I want the family to be able to come and stay, and at the moment feel quite able to have them. But we have a five-bedroom house and lots of stuff, so the trick will be to catch the moment when we're still just about able to do all the appalling sorting out and decision-making, but we nevertheless know that the time has come to move to a small flat (oh dear) with no garden (oh NO!). Is this a likely conjunction of circumstances?? At the moment I would hate not to have a garden, and yet the old joints get quite sore when I've been working outside and I'm only (only!) 72. As everyone always says, I don't feel old inside my head. But facts must be faced. Just not yet... .


Sunday, January 08, 2023

Time flies like an arrow and all that

A certain amount of not-very-much has been happening around here. In London, by contrast, Littlest Granddaughter has been dressing up as a ... mouse witch, maybe? So fierce. 

I don't think that January in Britain tends to be anyone's favourite month, and around here it's been unusually wet and dreary. However, look - the first snowdrops are flowering, so I shall take that as a sign of spring. The garden's not looking its best (understatement) because all the things that were still blooming, at least feebly, in early December were cut down by the frost and are now piles of brown goo. I shall have to gird my loins and get out there to do some chopping down, so that in a few weeks the spring bulbs will be visible to cheer the wintry heart. 

Our standard walk along by the golf course demonstrates the apparent deadness of the season. But of course there are buds on the trees and fresh nettles and dockens burgeoning at the side of the path.

Yesterday, however, it was sunny, so we did a recce for the February walk that we're leading. It's just a town one, near here, mainly through parks, and Mr L and I are familiar with it, but one has to work out the timings so as to be somewhere suitable to eat sandwiches at lunch time. We usually go to a cafe for coffee, cake and chat at the end of the walk and it's not that easy to find one that will have room for a sizeable group of muddy people at a slightly-difficult-to-predict time. On this occasion we've cunningly organised the walk to end at our house, so there's no crucial timing needed for this.

We walked along the river, which is very full indeed after all the rain.

This heron looked somewhat bedraggled, but I imagine it was enjoying some sunshine at last. 

And on we went, through Saughton Park, with its bandstand.

And along beside the tram line

to the Dovecot in Corstorphine.

This, as I've written before, dates from the 1500s and was built so that the doves that lived in it could provide fresh meat and eggs for the people who lived in the (long gone) 14th century Corstorphine Castle. I'm glad that I didn't live then for many reasons, my vegetarianism being one. I doubt if vegetarianism was much of a thing then. There are 1000 nesting boxes, which are still used by visiting pigeons, but no one now eats these more fortunate birds. 

We established that the nearby St Margaret's Park had benches and indeed picnic tables for us to lunch at on our group walk but then it started to rain (we do not need more rain). So we decided not to walk home as planned but instead got a bus. 

I'm still quilting Little Grandson's quilt but it's not going to be finished by the time we go up to see them on Tuesday. However, not too long to go now. And then I must get back to the archives, which I spent quite a while sorting during lockdown but then abandoned, so that I can't quite remember where I am. But I must make some Decisions. Sorting into boxes is easy enough. Throwing out my parents' holiday albums, less so. 


Monday, January 02, 2023

Hello 2023

A long silence from me, but I don't suppose anyone much noticed. It's been a busy, but lovely time. Littlest Granddaughter and her mum, Daughter 2, arrived on December 20 (I think) and since then various others have been arriving and then gradually departing - until this evening it's just the old chap and me once more. 

I now never like to post recognisable photos of the family these days - one hears too much about foul deeds on the internet - so you'll just have to imagine the lovely pictures that I might have posted. 

Daughter 2, Littlest Granddaughter and I  went to the local playpark and skate park, where Littlest bravely scooted down some minor slopes. Like her granny, she isn't one to take major risks. 

By Christmas or a few days before, everyone else had arrived. At one point there were twelve of us sleeping in the house, and sixteen for dinner, which was quite a lot for a house this size. But it all went well. 

Then bit by bit they all went away apart from my brother and his wife. The weather has been pretty damp, especially one day, when the river flooded, though not into anyone's house. This was the day afterwards - the level of the water had been up over the wall to the left, and you can see the debris caught in the fence. 

Here's my brother, filming the unusually high and fast-flowing river. 

Big Grandson, now eleven and a half, has suddenly grown and is now as tall as I am. Granted, I'm only 5 feet 2 and a bit, but still... He still likes his Brio. He's such a nice boy. 

Well, Happy New Year to anyone who's still reading this. Let's hope that at least some of the problems of the world get sorted out in 2023. What terrible things are going on; and yet how lovely life can be, and so let's concentrate on the good things whenever possible.