Saturday, May 27, 2023

Retirement - so busy!

The only trouble about going away on holiday is that the garden romps away in one's absence and not always in a good way. And then of course we had our American visitors, during which the same thing happened. So this week has featured a bit of garden tidying but also various other busyness - not unpleasant but not remarkable. And some socialising. Very important. 

On Saturday we went for a walk with the walking friends in West Lothian, to the west of Edinburgh. 

It featured lots of countryside in bloom, such as this cow parsley - so pretty. 

And bluebells - the invasive Spanish kind, so one disapproves, but they give a lovely splash of colour. 

And the pink version, with campion in the background. 

It was a perfect day for walking - mild, no wind, no sun. Though it wasn't so good for photography, granted. 

And gorse and, in the foreground, rose bay willowherb, another thug (which will look lovely in a few weeks). 

Do you see the squirrel on the branch above the walkers? It's metal, so it sat conveniently still. I have no idea why it's there. We went for nearly 7 miles and it was absolutely wonderful but we were glad to sit down for a coffee at the end of it. 

And we've seen quite a bit of our beloved Edinburgh grandchildren. Big Grandson is still drawing street scenes with cartoon polar bears. He points out that they're easier to draw than people. 

Big Granddaughter drew him a polar bear as a present. She's a very loving little sister - most of the time. 

They do still play with the Brio, but not nearly as often as before. They're growing up (sigh). Big Grandson is taller than me and is nearly 12. Help!

Friday, May 19, 2023

More holiday

The following day we drove to Wigtown, which has lots of bookshops, including this one owned by Shaun Bythell, who writes the "Diary of a Bookseller" books, which are funny and interesting. We've been to The Bookshop before, but Shaun himself wasn't there. This time he was, which was exciting but slightly alarming. (He can be very scathing about some of his customers.) And of course we bought quite a lot of books.

It's an interesting building, with various rooms and quirky messages around the place. 

And then we went on to Portpatrick. It's a pretty little place, and we enjoyed walking around it. 

Lots of thrift growing in the rocks.

I always wonder what it would be like to live in places we visit. Portpatrick was full of holiday homes, which I imagine makes it quite empty in the winter. I can see myself living in Wigtown, though - at least, as described by Shaun, which makes it sound like a wonderful community. 

Then on our last day, Mr L nobly took the long way back via Dumfries House. This is a stately home which was put up for sale, with its contents, in 2008. Prince Charles (as he was) heard about it and managed to raise £45 million to buy it, with contents, for the nation. It has lots of Chippendale furniture. And then more millions have since been spent on restoration of the house and grounds - both are beautiful. One of the King's enthusiasms is heritage, and he's keen on heritage crafts too, so he's set up craft workshops where apprentices learn traditional skills and use them in the house and garden. For example, there are various garden shelters made by them. 

It's all very lovely, though I think it'll be even lovelier next week, when more will be flowering.

You can't randomly walk around the house but have to go on a pre-booked guided tour, with two guides making sure you don't pinch anything. The king is keen not to have ropes that corral the visitors in one space, but as a result, you walk past pretty things which I suppose have to be kept an eye on. Various of them would look very nice in my sitting room. 

Anyway, it was a lovely end to our day and our holiday. And now we're home and the garden has grown lots of weeds in the warm weather. But also flowers. 


Thursday, May 18, 2023


We've been away for a little holiday - the first on our own, I think, since before lockdown. We were just in south-west Scotland - Galloway - which is lovely. On the way to our hotel, in Newton Stewart, we visited Kirkcudbright (pronounced Kir-coo-bree). This is the 16th century McLellan Castle. 

We visited the home of E A Hornel, one of the Glasgow Boys group of artists. He had no children, so left his house to the town and it's now run by the National Trust. The house, built in the eighteenth century and added to, is interesting, but the star turn is the garden, which is still laid out as he had it, and beautifully kept. 

We were lucky in the weather. There's an artist in residence, Ewan McClure, who wasn't there, but we admired his paintings. 

Then we went to the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery, and they had an exhibition of Ewan McClure's paintings upstairs, so we climbed the stairs and there he was. We recognised him from a self-portrait in the studio. His paintings were very lovely - portraits, landscapes, streetscapes, still lifes (one that I would definitely have stolen...) - though not cheap. We chatted to him; he was very nice, even though we didn't buy anything. We have no room on our walls, even if we'd had that sort of money to spend. There was a room with a little video of him painting, and this is it. - Ewan McClure Self Portrait Time Lapse. I don't know how to do the little screen thing but I do recommend looking at it in Google. What he did was to put up a one-way mirror with a camera behind it, then he looked into the mirror and painted his portrait more or less from behind the canvas. It amazes me. 

The next day, Mr L's 75th birthday, we went to Logan Botanic Gardens, which were lovely but will be lovelier next week, I think. Still, they had quite a lot of colour, including my beloved mecanopsis. 

Also very big fish - my foot is there for scale. 

Then we went to the nearby Castle Kennedy gardens, which had more plants blooming and were generally wonderful.

I think this is a mallow.

That was a big rhododendron. 

Ah yes, gardens. So good for the soul, especially if someone else does all the hard work. 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The river

The only trouble about having visitors is that while they're there, one doesn't do the mundane householdy/life-task things. So in the last few days, we've been boringly doing these. And you know how it is: you do something and then realise that you have to do something else first. But today the sun shone and it was warm and we walked along to the gallery for coffee. Look! People sheltering under sun umbrellas. (No, it wasn't exactly that hot.)

Then we walked down the steps and home along the river. These aren't the right sort of bluebells - they're the Spanish variety, and a terrible weed - but they look pretty. 

The trees have suddenly burst into full leaf. 

The river flowed very smoothly. 

In the park, the cherry blossom is mainly on the ground now, but it's still bonny. 

These blobs on the river are a mum and dad mallard and their two babies. I'm sure there ought to be more babies, but - well, let's not think about that.

And now I must go and do some more boring tasks. 


Tuesday, May 09, 2023


Daughter 2 and Littlest Granddaughter came for the weekend (since Monday was a Coronation-based holiday) and we watched the spectacle. I felt that this was a bold choice of frock for this singer, but am not known for my flamboyant fashion choices so I may be wrong. 

I don't really have any terribly strong views about the monarchy. It's a daft system but on the other hand it seems to work fairly well. Even if they were deposed, the royals would be very rich, and they do work fairly hard, in their way, for their money. Much harder than most aristocrats, I'd think. Poor old Queenie was still at work, at least a bit, shaking Liz Truss's hand, three days (was it?) before she died. From my advanced age of nearly 73, I realise that old people have - if nothing else - a longer view of things than the young do. In my lifetime, many Prime Ministers and presidents have come and gone, endlessly changing, but the monarchy gives us some continuity. Which I think is good. 

According to Daughter 2, the Coronation cost us £100 million, Since Charles was king already, did we actually need it at all? Could no one think of a better use for £100 million? However, since we paid for it, we watched it, and if we're talking about flamboyant frocks, boy, did we see a lot of those on HM, his family, various bishops and archbishops and so on. There was some beautiful embroidery, applique (sorry, can't do accents) and so on. 

And marching. We do good marching, even in the rain. 

It's all a bit daft. 

On Sunday we went to the Botanics and Littlest pretended to be a statue. 

And there was lots of playing in her blanket-den-house. 

and the first sandpitting of the season.

But now they've gone again and as usual, I'm bereft. All this coming and going fairly takes it out of me. Well, the coming is fine. It's the going that never gets any easier. 

Still, at least we all like one another, unlike the poor old royals, with Harry and his shenanigans. He should count his many blessings. As should I. 


Thursday, May 04, 2023

Whistlestop tour of Scotland, or bits of it

My very nice cousin (well, our parents were cousins) and her equally nice husband, who live in Georgia in the US, visited us for a week and we went around to see some sights. My cousin loves gardens so of course we visited Edinburgh's Botanics on their first day. Then we went to the Georgian House (a house in the New Town furnished as it would have been in the late 1700s) and wandered through Princes Street Gardens. 

Cousins, Wojtek the Bear and the Castle. 

Another day we visited Dawyck Botanics in the Borders, hoping that their rhododendrons and azaleas would be flowering. But annoyingly, though Dawyck is well south of Edinburgh, there wasn't a flower - I suppose because it's much higher. Still, my cousin likes trees and there are lots of those. 

While we were in the vicinity, we went to Traquair House, the oldest inhabited house in Scotland and lived in by the Stuart family since 1491. The main gates have been closed since 1745, when Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated in his attempt to reclaim the British throne for the Stuart dynasty, and they won't be opened till a Stuart is back on the throne. This means that since 1745, visitors have had to arrive by the "temporary entrance". 

One day we drove up to meet Son and family in Dundee, first visiting Branklyn Gardens in Perth, which though much further north than Dawyck had a splendid show of colour. 

While we were there, we visited Dundee Botanics as well, where some things were in bloom. 

On Sunday we went out to lunch in Gifford with Daughter 2 and family, and while waiting for the food, played that game in which someone draws a head and covers it up, someone else draws a body and covers it again - and so on. My cousin's artist husband drew the excellent feet.

Our cousins wanted to visit a coastal town so we took them to North Berwick. In the rain. The weather had been beautiful the week before their visit but during their week, the sun remained obstinately hidden. This was the worst day, though in fact it didn't rain hard; it was mainly low cloud. Not that this was good! 


It was, as my cousin politely said, atmospheric,

This is the Bass Rock. At one point it was completely invisible but then it appeared out of the mist, like Venus from the waves. 

Is that the sun up there? Just about? Still, I imagine that they get sun in Atlanta. Sea mist, not so much. 

And now they're back home, and the blue poppies are out in the garden. The sun is also making an appearance from time to time. Too late!