Friday, March 16, 2018

Girls of various sizes

We've been spending time arranging my aunt's funeral - at long distance, not the easiest way - though my brother and sister-in-law in Surrey have been doing much of the liaising with the funeral director and so on. But so many emails have been whizzing to and fro! Meanwhile, Daughter 2 and Littlest Granddaughter have been staying with us, which has been so lovely. But you may know how much time for anything else there is with a little person who likes a lot of attention. And then the Edinburgh grandchildren have been here today.

It's very ... what do I mean? ... poignant? touching? reassuring? seeing this baby, this little girl, this young mother moving into their places in the world just as the old lady moves out.

Biggest Granddaughter decided to go camping with her dolly. It was apparently very hot so dolly took her clothes off to do a bit of sunbathing. Wisely, however, they stayed inside today. Spring? It's a chilly one so far.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Basically babies

It's quite an emotional time at the moment, what with one thing and another. We went to visit Son, Daughter-in-Law and Middle Granddaughter yesterday. Here we are playing with her on the floor. She's beginning to accept us as members of her servant tribe, which is lovely but also sad, since we won't see her again for another few weeks.

Once more she fed the ducks.

We went to the soft play centre. Here she is, seeing her Grandpa one floor below and waving to him. We were amazed and delighted - he was some distance away.

And now Littlest Granddaughter and her mum have come for a few days. She's keen to stand up (at not quite five months) - so advanced...

We've been comparing her with photos of her mum.

I think they're quite similar. I wish I were more similar than I now am to that young woman holding Daughter 2. Where did she go?

Littlest Granddaughter is very interested in her hands.

This is Daughter 2 again.

And we've been sorting photos out for a slide show after my aunt's funeral. Here she is, on the left, with my late dad and my other aunt, who alone of the three suffered from dementia for several years before she died. Such a random and awful disease and one which I do hope I haven't inherited.

And tomorrow we go to the funeral of one of my parents' best friends. Life is short.

But, on the other hand, it's frequently sweet.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018


So in very sad news, my little auntie has died. She was knocked over by a Tesco employee pushing his trolley carelessly on November 30, which broke her hip, and she basically never recovered and never got home to the lovely house she lived in, in Norfolk.

She was 93 and had a rather lovely life, so of course one can't mourn that much. But all the same, I'm very sad about it. It's partly because she was my father's sister and so now all that generation is dead - which is very much the end of an era (and leaves us uncomfortably in the front line - us next...). I will also miss her for herself. She was unmarried and moved down south when I was only 5, so though I was her only niece we didn't see that much of her during my childhood. But she used to come up for holidays in the north of Scotland, with friends, all through my teenage years, and they used to stay with my parents on the way. And after that, she hosted Mr Life and me and then the children for lots of holidays, first in Cambridge and then in lovely Norfolk. It was a good relationship: she was semi-detached (I couldn't disappoint her) but friendly and caring and jolly. For years, I've written to her at least once a month, and since her accident I've sent her a letter every two days. And now there's no one left to write actual letters to. There's a gap in my life. 

But still. 93 happy years is good. And I'm very glad that the whole extended family went down to see her last summer. 

The other day, Granddaughter decided to draw a picture as a present to her brother. She chose to depict his very favourite kind of traffic lights: the ones he's always called "traffic lights up high" - on very long poles, sometimes over the carriageway. He came to look - and we winced, waiting for him to point out the flaws in her drawing, but he very tactfully said something along the lines that this was the best traffic light drawing he'd ever seen. She accepted the compliment gracefully.

Then she drew a (somewhat space-age-looking) bus, bus stop and - allowing her own interests a look-in - giant bunny.

The snow is almost gone, to everyone's relief, but it's cold and wet. The crocuses and snowdrops have re-emerged, the latter somewhat squashed. I had coffee today with a friend, looking out over the water. Roll on, spring.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Come back, spring

When the snow started, I took these photos of crocuses peeping through, which I thought was rather sweet and brave of them.

Now, poor things, they've been deeply buried for a few days. I wonder if the blooms will survive?

We are surviving perfectly well, though I'm starting to get fed up with not getting much exercise. On the other hand, quilting is a pleasant and warm occupation. And we have enough to eat, thanks to fridge and freezer, long-life milk and a very local wee shop.

We keep hearing, don't we, of people who throw vast amounts of food away? Can this be true? (I realise that shops and restaurants probably do.) We have council food waste bins and most of our neighbours put them out to be collected, but we throw practically nothing away. It's partly because I'm vegetarian and so are Daughter 1 and family so we don't buy whole chickens and things which would leave carcasses, just portions of meat for the Carnivorous One. And everything else left over - well, we eat it the next day or freeze it for later or it goes into soup or gets composted for the garden. You can put almost everything into soup: broccoli stalks and cauliflower leaves (most of them) and leftover salad or vegetables. Who are these rumoured throwers-away?

Anyway. The Edinburgh family is about to arrive on buses, hooray hooray (we still can't get the car out of the driveway) so that'll destroy a bit of our peace - in a good way.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Snow days

Well, here's the thing: it's been snowing. We don't get very much snow, or any kind of extreme weather, in Edinburgh, so it comes as a big surprise to us all and things grind to a halt. This is the main road this morning, looking west...

and here it is looking east. The buses have been cancelled, the schools are closed and we're all being urged to stay at home. So, more or less, we have been doing so.

This was our street this morning - the footprints are now all filled in. There's no way we can get the car up that hill and it's the only way out.

And this was looking out of the window behind my sink this afternoon.

It's been all right for us retired folk, especially those of us with triangles to sew. I'm less stir-crazy than I'd have thought, though I do like to get out for a walk. But it's hard work, wading through deep snow. I did go to the local shop for fruit and other essentials but otherwise it's been quite pleasant, just battening down the hatches and lying low.

Well, not lying exactly. Sitting at the sewing machine and battling with fabric. The quilt top is now finished (sorry it looks so crumpled there. I should have made more effort to straighten it out). My triangles aren't all perfect but hey ho, they're good enough.

Now I'm off to organise the wadding and pin it all to the back and then at last I can spend several months quilting it. By the time I'm finished, it'll be summer and Biggest Granddaughter will have no need of a quilt but no doubt winter will roll around again shortly. Time passes so fast these days that often, when I'm undressing for bed, I feel it was hardly worth putting my clothes on that morning. But somehow making something, eg a quilt, seems to give one something to show for the passing of time. And I do love playing with fabric.

Monday, February 26, 2018


We are so privileged to share the lives of these little people. Granddaughter is a real bookworm. She's off to school in August - I do hope her love of books continues. Grandson is a very competent reader but, at our house anyway, he's always too busy doing something else to sit reading.

For example, this is his drawing of a thunderstorm - with, of course, a train and carriages at a level crossing. Yes, they do look a bit like a giant anteater followed by some sheep, but Grandson informed me that it's an electric train, which is that pointy shape. I think that's what he said. He knows much more about such things than I.

Granddaughter is beginning to draw quite well and she drew him a traffic light as a present, and then made it into a card for him, inscribing it carefully with his name and hers. In return, he made her a card with bunnies (she is a bunny fan). We particularly like the different views of the bunnies. All this is very awwww for a granny. (They do have occasional disagreements too, I should add for the sake of accuracy.)

Today we had friends for the day and went to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which is a fine building, we think, with lots of fanciful friezes featuring Scottish history.

Now, I've possibly mentioned before that I've been making triangles. Slowly. I looked at various tutorials on the internet but none of them actually mentioned what seemed to me the main problem: that obviously you have to have a seam allowance at the ends of your triangles, or the tips would be cut off when you sew them on to whatever you're joining it to. The ladies demonstrating this show themselves quickly sewing triangles together but then not on to anything else. Of course to anyone with good spatial awareness, it's probably obvious what the answer to the problem is. But I am not that person. After a bit of experimentation with scrap fabrics, however, I realised that if you sew two triangles together, you'll make a seam and then when you turn the triangles back to the right side, the point of the upper triangle will be lower than the seam - leaving a bit of fabric above the point to sew into the next strip - as above (ignore the leftmost point in my photo - I'm coming to that). (I'm sure this isn't a clear explanation, but I could show you easily enough. Should you care.)

But then the demonstrating ladies (do men make patchwork, I wonder?) stop joining their triangles, leaving them looking much like my picture above, and I think to myself - but the leftmost point is at the top of the thing, with no seam allowance to sew in to anything. How is that going to work? And of course the answer is...

that once you put the next ( green chevrony) triangle on, you cover up the original point (as you've been doing all along) and make a new one, thus creating a seam allowance. As any fool would understand. Except me.

I'm sure you either knew this already or have skipped my somewhat inadequate explanation. But surely one of the ladies must have been as dim as me at some point - or must at least have met someone as dim as me - and would have thought to explain, or even better to show, how the magic worked as she went along, instead of just being all airy about it and whizzing around on her machine and saying "and you just continue like that and sew it to the next row bla bla bla."

When you're teaching, you have to make sure that your explanations take account of the possible ignorance of your pupils. I once taught a whole lesson on Norman McCaig's wonderful poem "Toad", covering all the vocabulary, imagery, structure etc that I thought anyone might not have noticed, and then at the end, one student asked me, "But what's a toad?"

Anyway, I'm going to conquer triangles, though they may be slightly wonky... .

Granddaughter said to me the other day, "I had a very clumsy day at nursery today. I knocked my milk over two times. It was very embarrassing."

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The lovely and the not so lovely

Saturday was a beautiful day and we went to East Lothian with our walking friends. We met this interested pony.

The walk was mainly flat, though this path went uphill for a while so that there was a good view in all directions.

The reflections on the water were very pretty.

But the main feature of the day was the woodland round Smeaton House, which was profusely carpeted with thousands and thousands of snowdrops.

When I think of the few little clumps that I've nurtured in my garden...

well, maybe in a couple of hundred years they'll look like this. So lovely.

Meanwhile I've nearly finished Biggest Granddaughter's quilt top, except that I decided that I should incorporate some triangles in one border and pretend to be a proper quilter.

I've practised, not very impressively, with some bits of old curtain lining. Clearly my accuracy isn't up to much. (Who knew?) However, after one rather better attempt, I've started to cut out actual fabric. I'm not confident...