Saturday, March 30, 2013


Spring has come very late in Britain (if you can call it spring - it's the coldest one for 65 years, according to the paper, so therefore even for someone as ancient as I, it's unprecedented). I've just been gardening and my fingers are frozen. The air temperature isn't too bad but the soil is very cold. Above, the garden today...

... and this was 25 March last year.

I can see why American ladies have sewing rooms.  I had a further fiddle with my Anna patches last night and Cassie was very keen to help. The table isn't big enough, anyway.

I think I've decided that I don't really like red and green together in large quantities (yes, I do realise that this is supposed to be a Christmas quilt and that red and green are kind of traditional) so I've separated the very red ones out with the thought of making a separate quilt. (Pause for laughter. Yes, it's taken me since August to think about making this quilt.) I like the quieter effect better, though it's not supposed to be quite as quiet as it looks here - some of these white pieces of paper have things like "green spots" written on them to remind me that I'm going to cut the larger pieces into squares and place them in the pattern. Or, I might.

Of course, removing the red squares means that I don't have enough material so I went up town today with the thought of acquiring some more. They don't make it easy for a person, do they? There were no packs nicely cut into squares in the shop that I decided to patronise, which was a pity as I had carefully calculated how many little squares I needed. There were, however, oblong bits of one size and long bits of a completely different size, and one could also buy cloth in multiples of 10 centimetres. It's all in centimetres in Britain and I'm really an inch person. I had to go and have a cup of coffee and do sums on my napkin and I've yet to find out if my arithmetic was right.

Do you all prewash your material, o quilty gurus? Having looked at various patchworky/quilty videos on the internet (so much easier than actually doing anything myself) I decided that I should, so I washed all the ones you see above. But I suppose I'd better do the new stuff too. Not that it's a problem. I'm good at washing things.

Yes, I definitely prefer the mainly green (and, separately, the mainly red - though don't hold your breath for that one) to the exceedingly-festive mixture. It may be, though, that I don't feel very Christmassy at the moment.

Quite Eastery, though. Happy Easter!

Friday, March 29, 2013

What a difference a day makes...

Twenty-four little hours... .

Oh ye of little faith!

(Did I mention it to them? Well, yes, I fear I did. I popped my head round the door and said - "Your sign - has anyone mentioned the spelling mistake?" and three voices chorused "Yes!"

Our area is quite heavily populated by retired people with nothing much to do.)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Unmoving paper goods

This sign went up yesterday. I wonder how long it'll stay like that?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The idle life

Today we went to the Botanics with Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1, his mum, our visiting niece and the grandchildren. Granddaughter's first visit there - but not her last, I'm sure.

In the afternoon Mr Life and I went to Falkland Palace with our niece. It's rather impressive but not exactly cosy and it has lots of lovely carved wood that I'm happy I don't have to dust. Bits of the Palace date from the 1300s though it's been much added to over the years. Various kings and queens of Scotland have stayed there from time to time.

We had a little wander round Falkland village afterwards.

There's not a lot to it but it's quite sweet. I imagine it's busier during the tourist season.

It's been such a cold spring in Britain. The flowers are hardly out and most of the trees are still bare.

This house had a date of 17-something over the door.

Someone has a sense of humour.

Mr Life showed niece the hill that he might have climbed on a school outing in the early 1960s, but it was cancelled. We decided not to try doing it today either.

Then we went to have dinner with Son and Daughter-in-Law at the Glover Arms (very nice).

Niece ordered a big pie.

And ate it. We were impressed.

Later, Son chose a pudding. We lead such an exciting life.

And now we're home again.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Am I, or amn't I confused?

Grandson gives Granddaughter a little rock in her rocking chair / car seat. All together now: aaaahhhh. Yes, she does appear to be dressed, seasonally, as a rabbit.

What a lot of interesting comments on my last post.

I’m Scottish and have lived all my life in Edinburgh. Here, as in (I imagine) most areas, there are quite a lot of dialect words that we use or are at least very familiar with. I might write about some of these in another post; and on the whole, we’re aware that they are Scots words. But sometimes I’m not sure whether our use of what seem like normal English words has a particularly Scottish twist or not – such as my use of “I can reach it fine” the other day. (In that case, it seems not.)

I know that “fine well” is a bit Scottish … or at least, I think it is – as in “I know fine well that you broke the vase” or “I knew fine well that I should have brought it, but I forgot”. There’s a derogatory tone – a suggestion that I might be supposed not to know, but I do - and trouble may ensue.

“Squint” is another word that I discovered relatively recently isn't used (is it?) in England to mean “crooked”. Here, pictures can be squint; teeth can be squint, or noses, or handwriting. (Also eyes, but I think this is also true in Standard English. Or is it used only as a noun or verb? “a squint” or “to squint”?)

And I don’t think English people say “amn’t”. I can’t think why, since it’s jolly useful: “I amn’t sure if I can be there on time”. All right, we could (and sometimes do) say “I’m not sure if I can be there on time”. It’s probably more common in the question form: “Amn’t I lucky / right / clever / taller than you etc ?” I suppose we can be formal and say “Am I not lucky?”, but it seems to me that this throws emphasis on the “not”. I think – correct me if I’m wrong - an English person would tend to use “Aren’t I lucky?”

I’m interested that Australians use “fortnight” (though not Americans - or Canadians?) and that only English service stations actually say “jackets” instead of “jacket potatoes”. Actually, now I think of it, I could believe that in my youth, we may also have said “jacket potatoes” – not that we ever actually ate such things very much so it didn’t arise. (I can't imagine why we didn't eat them. We didn't have a very varied choice of vegetables in 50s Britain but we did have potatoes. I'd have been delighted to get a nice baked potato with cheese.) I wonder if the term “baked potatoes” is the American form and has come here from over the water?

In 1970 I spent some time in America and remember hearing the expression "a tad". I'd never heard it before and had to work out the meaning from context. Now it's common here, though I don't think I use it much. Does it mean something different from "a bit" or "a little"? Is it smaller?

Friday, March 22, 2013

The afghan and the woobie

It was cold yesterday, so Daughter 1 dressed up Granddaughter as a Arctic teddy bear ...

... and we went off to the museum.

Grandson knows where he's going now.

The trains! Come on, you two, he urges.

It's such a serious thing: you have to press the buttons...

... and watch...

... the wheels go round. And then press them again and again and again and again.

I wondered the other day, as I wrote that I could "reach the catch fine", whether "fine" in this sentence was a particularly Scottish usage. Probably. I thought about language again today at the supermarket when I passed the frozen aisle which was offering "jackets": potatoes baked in their skins (and frozen - though I can't quite see why anyone would buy these - it's not exactly difficult to bake a potato). This "jackets" expression is not one we'd use here - the potatoes were packaged by an English firm. In fact we realise that we're in England when we get down the motorway to a service station where these delicacies referred to by the staff as "jackets" rather than what we'd say, which is "baked potatoes". Since I'm a vegetarian, a baked potato is often what I'll choose in such an establishment and I'm always amused by being asked, "Do you want cheese on your jacket?"

Daughter 2, in London, was surprised recently to find that English people don't use the phrase "the back of (eg) nine", as in "I'll be there the back of nine". She conducted a minor Twitter survey as to her friends' interpretation of this. As any Scot would know, it means "just after nine o'clock" - aiming for nine but probably arriving a few minutes after.

One word that I don't use myself, but my granny often did, is "forenoon" - for the morning. I wonder why that's died out in even Scottish standard English, when "afternoon" remains? I wonder this too about "sennight" (week), which you find in Shakespeare but I've never heard in modern use, though British people say "fortnight" all the time. I believe Americans don't, though. Do Australians?

And then there's "woobie". Dianne of "A Month of Sundays"  has extremely kindly made a woobie for Granddaughter and it's on its way to me. I had to ask for a translation. (Is it just me?) Meanwhile, Granddaughter is snuggled under, in the top picture here, the afghan (again, not what we'd call it) that Dianne equally kindly sent to Grandson - and she also sent a lovely green and blue cot quilt (not shown).

Ah, the mysteries of language. It's amazing how any of us manages to learn it. But we do!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stone walls do not a prison make

We have a path round one side of our house and decided to put a high fence, with a gate, across it so that Grandson and (in time) Granddaughter wouldn't be able to escape from the back garden on to the street. Mr Life considered putting up this barrier himself but then we decided that what with his incipient arthritis, preference for sitting doing crosswords in chilly weather and perfectionist tendencies when it comes to doing-it-himself, it would be quicker to employ a chap.

So in due course two big strapping young chaps came along. They came, they sawed, they concreted and now we have a gate with a catch on it, nice and high up so that Grandson won't be able to reach it for fifteen years or so.

There is one snag. That's me on the other side of the gate. I can reach the catch fine as long as I'm on the same side as it but once I'm in the front garden and the gate is shut... no.

You'll be relieved to know that there's a cat-sized hole cut specially in the fence. So that's all right.

(Also, when I reread yesterday's post I saw that I'd said I wiped the remaining trace of yogurt in Sirius's nose. Ugh. That would be mean. It was a typo. I wipe it on his nose, of course, and then he licks it off.)

PS  Son and Daughter-in-Law heard last night that they'd passed their very final medical exams and are now fully-qualified GPs (or will be when they've finished their current work placement in August). Woo hoo! Well done, Dr P and Dr A!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Can spring be far behind?

The weather today was not only wettish but also raw. It wasn't frosty or windy or even particularly rainy at the point when we were walking round the Botanics but it was cold and damp enough to make us walk fast so as to prevent the chill penetrating into our vitals.

Snowdrops sat it bravely out.

Crocuses sensibly refused to open.

There were puddles.

I wore the boots I've just bought - I got them for gardening but thought I'd try them out in the rain. They were splendidly waterproof but the right boot kept eating my sock. I had to stop every five minutes and stop the sock's rapid progress down towards my toes. Why does that happen? In the end I removed the sock and trotted round with the bare foot inside the boot. Since the boot is fleecy inside, this was actually quite pleasant. I wonder if the problem is with the sock or the boot? I bet you can't wait to find out.

Sirius Cat seems much the same after three days of his diuretic. At first we tried, as advised by the vet, to disguise the ground-up tablet in a little tuna; but our furry friend didn't eat it all. So the new system, which has worked well so far, is to mix it with a tiny blob of Greek yogurt and allow him to lick this off my finger. If there's any left, I wipe it on his nose and he cleans it off. I just hope it does some good. Meanwhile he snoozes a lot but it's not really cat weather anyway so he would probably be taking it easy even if he were on top form.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


What did we do today? Well, we went to church and then Daughter 1 and the grandchildren (still can't quite used to saying that, in the plural!) came back to us for lunch.

In answer to various questions, no alas I didn't knit any of the items you've been admiring. I'm not much of a knitter. The little pink hat worn by Granddaughter at birth was provided by the hospital and knitted by one of the auxiliary nurses. The blanket she's wrapped in here was knitted by various of Daughter 1's Ravelry friends. The cardigan in this picture was created by the other, more talented, grandmother. Daughter 1's shawl was made by Daughter 1 herself.

I'm sure I must have some latent talents but I can't think what they might be.

Mr Life had a nice snooze under the patchwork quilt made by (no, again not by me) Thimbleanna and then read some books with Grandson.

How that boy loves his vehicles.

Grandson is such good fun. I had forgotten what a sense of humour small children can have. He makes jokes - not by verbal dexterity but by deliberately doing things to make us laugh. And you can sense the wheels in his amazing little head whirring away as he finds out new things about the world. By contrast, Granddaughter is at that stage of looking to and fro between half-closed  eyes, just beginning to put two and two together - or not even that, just slowly assembling tiny bits of information and puzzling away at them.

It won't take her long, though, to get used to being here. The new baby stage is so fleeting. That soft skin! the wrinkly knees! the wobbly head!

Friday, March 15, 2013


It's been quite a week. On Saturday, Granddaughter was born. On Monday, it snowed and as usual we had to dig the car out, since no gritters come near our little street. The snow had more or less gone by the evening and since then it's been reasonably mild.

On Wednesday we took Sirius Cat, aka Velvet Ted, to the vet and since then we've been very worried about him. The second lot of blood tests didn't show any infection, alas, and the vet is now referring to his lungs as having lesions, which don't sound good at all. He's not very good at explaining and we were too shocked to ask all the questions that we thought of afterwards. He gave us diuretics for Sirius so presumably this is to reduce the fluid in his lungs. Poor Sirius: he's such an amiable cat and he's not quite six, so we didn't expect him to get ill at this stage. Of course one should not allow oneself to get attached to little animals but it's impossible not to do so. He seems reasonably contented, which is a mercy, and purrs away as usual but is definitely not his usual bouncy self.

Yesterday we cheered ourselves up by going to an exhibition of watercolours and having coffee in the gallery restaurant.

Then today, Daughter 1, SIL1, his parents and the two little ones came for a meal. Granddaughter mainly slept. Grandson played and played and giggled and danced and then had a brief lie down.

It didn't last long.

How I love him. And her of course. And poor furry Ted.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

She's called L.....

Granddaughter now has a name! Hooray. But I'd better not tell you it. Yesterday Grandson and I left her sleeping peacefully in the company of her mum and dad and went to the museum.

He was very busy making wheels go round by pressing things.

And more things. Can you see my reflection, by the way?

He seemed very happy but did suck his fingers a lot. I think more teeth are coming in.

He also enjoyed walking over this metal flooring. It made a good clanky noise. He tested it thoroughly.

But today we took Sirius Cat to the vet because he's been a bit listless and his breathing is slightly noisy. After x-rays and blood tests (and a lot of money) he was deemed to have fluid or something in his lungs, so he's on antibiotics and we await the result of some of the blood tests tomorrow. It's illogical to become so attached to an animal but of course we love him a lot and are worried about him. He's a very good-natured and tolerant cat, a benign furry presence, and we do hope that there's nothing seriously wrong with him.

I would quite like life to be boring for a while.