Saturday, June 29, 2013

Smiling. Sort of.

Here are two pictures of the grandchildren laughing.

There's nothing particularly remarkable about them, but I'm posting them to cheer myself up a bit. This is my parents' wedding anniversary and I'm feeling - well, you know. They're not around any more. And Daughter 2 and her husband have been house-hunting in London, which I'm happy about because I don't want them to have to go on living in a rented flat but on the other hand it does make their living there seem rather permanent. Which it is, of course. And yes, yes, I know, they could be living in Australia (a fine place in itself, no doubt, but an even longer way away).

Tim Henman made me smile the other day when he was commenting on Andy Murray's game as he won fairly easily at Wimbledon against someone whose name I've forgotten. This someone was looking weary as he tore about the court chasing the ball, and Tim said sympathetically, "Someone stick a fork in him - I think he's done." I don't suppose it was an original observation but I hadn't heard it before. Then a little later, his co-commenter said something about this player looking as if he was feeling pain somewhere in his body and Tim Henman said, "I imagine it's not in the tips of his ears, but probably everywhere else." Not hugely witty but Mr Henman always seemed so serious when he was a player.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The news tonight

In cat news: Sirius is holding his own. The steroids are making him eat more, if nothing else.

Cassie is fine. She's disappointed that Sirius is taking more interest in Dreamies cat treats, which means fewer for her.

In architecture news: Mr L and I didn't think much of these new flats that we came across the other day on our walk home from my piano lesson. The green stripes would look nice on a patchwork quilt, we felt, but not on Edinburgh flats and especially not with the multi-shade grey slate (is it?) and the tan wood.

In Granddaughter news: she's now 16 pounds something, at 16 weeks. Considering that her big brother weighed 17 pounds when he was 6 months old, we're awed. All on breast milk, too.

(What are you suggesting? says Granddaughter.)

 (I hope you're not suggesting that I'm fat. I like to think of myself as cuddly.)

(Mind you, gravity doesn't do much for my chin line, does it?)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Buppoos and birdies

These photos are for Nanny and Gramps in Worcester because they look at my blog for the pictures of the little ones and there haven't been any for a few days. Above, Granddaughter has a nap on the sofa yesterday (a fairly rare occurrence)...

... while Grandson and I look at a book.

I've been scraping up moss from my lawn and reseeding the bald bits. It's been very dry recently, but it rained a bit on Saturday. Guess who ran from muddy patch to muddy patch, getting his new shoes all messy?

Here he goes again.
 And again.

And again. Do you like his haircut?

The other day at the church crèche, Grandson picked up a Thomas the Tank Engine. "Bup my buppoos," he observed to the rather bigger boy beside him. Bigger boy frowned.

"He has a Thomas at home that says 'Bust my buffers'," I explained, "but he can't say it properly yet."

Bigger boy frowned again. "It's not 'Bup my buppoos'," he said patronisingly to Grandson. "It's 'Bust my buffers'."

Grandson [pleasantly - yes, that's what I said]: Bup my buppoos.
Bigger boy [in growing frustration]: IT'S NOT BUP MY BUPPOOS, IT'S BUST MY BUFFERS!
Grandson: [why does this chap keep repeating what I say?]: Bup my buppoos.
Bigger boy [through gritted teeth]: IT'S NOT....


Which reminded me of friends of Daughter 2's and their small children - one child from each family.

Child 1: Look! A birdie!
Child 2 [with withering scorn]: Dat's not a birdie. Dat's a sparrow.

Which it was.

It's good to know that pedantry lives on in the younger generation.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Thank you for all your Sirius sympathy. Bloggy friends do tend to be animal people. He's doing okay for the moment and sometimes I am inclined to think that he can't be that ill - then I remember the x-rays. Considering that I lost my mother to cancer less than a year ago, it may seem unreasonable to be so upset about a cat, but I think it's all connected with my grief for her. Life is sadly brief.

Mr L and I went to Cammo yesterday to walk in the sunshine and make ourselves feel more positive. I've blogged about Cammo before - it was an estate with a big house (see above) built in 1693 but the house fell into disrepair and was mainly demolished in 1977 (yes, quite). The ground floor - the part below the front door with the fancy triangle at the top of it - at the head of the steps - has been filled in with earth and the upper floors are no longer there. All that's left is the shell of that first floor on a mound of earth.

This is looking out from that front door - the triangular bit is on the other side from the photo. There must have been a lovely view down the avenue - now much narrower - to the hills beyond.

When we were there in the winter, it was very muddy! But yesterday it was sunny and leafy and flowery.

Monet might have enjoyed painting those buttercups.

We walked along by the field and enjoyed the peace.

Cammo Tower is in the distance. You'd think you were in the middle of the country, not a few hundred yards from busy roads.

Later, I admired some roses cut from the garden and floated in a bowl that I found with my mother's things. I really like its little round feet. I have no idea where she got it from but assume that it was once part of a dessert set, maybe belonging to a grandparent. If it could only tell me... .

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sirius Black

Alas, Sirius's x-ray on Wednesday revealed that his lungs are considerably more obstructed than they were on his previous x-ray some weeks ago, leading to the diagnosis of lung cancer. The vet said that it's very unusual for a cat to have primary lung cancer - which this seems to be - and even more unusual for it to strike a young cat. He's only just six.

It didn't come as a surprise to us, since he's losing weight quite rapidly, is breathing fast and is less active than he used to be. But we're very very sad. Of course, one has to be realistic. He's a cat, not a child (which would be much worse). We always knew that pets don't live as long as humans. But he's such a good-natured cat. He never objects to being picked up and cuddled; he gets slightly bullied by his smaller sister and never retaliates; he's just a kindly furry presence around the house.

He's on a double dose of steroids to relieve his symptoms but we know this is just prolonging things a bit. Meanwhile he lies in the sunshine in the garden all day; and sits on the sofa with his head on a lap, purring loudly, in the evenings. We stroke his lovely dense glossy fur. And any time he seems hungry, we give him Dreamies, his favourite treat. And prawns.

We're going through a lot of paper hankies.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Best frock

Granddaughter was christened yesterday. Here she is in her pretty christening dress. She's the same age as our children were when they wore the family christening robe - all antique, handmade and exquisite - but unfortunately she's a bit of a giant baby and didn't fit it. Still, she looked very sweet.

It's frustratingly difficult to get photos of babies that do them justice. You can't really see the peachy skin, the shine of their eyes and the suddenness of their cute goofy smiles. There's a touch of the beaming potato in photos of the prettiest baby.

Anyway, in my totally unbiased grandmotherly opinion, she's a very fine little person

with a lovely personality. Well, as long as she's fed at regular intervals.

After the pleasure of having Son and Daughter 2 staying for the weekend, with the others with us for most of yesterday, I'm feeling a bit tired and flat. We weren't helped by Daughter 2's train on Friday night being delayed by three hours (due 11.30 pm, arrived 2.30 am) because once again, stupid idiots stole the cabling for the signals so that trains had to be signalled through manually all the way from Durham to Newcastle. I'm not really a cross person but I wouldn't mind having a word with the mindless, selfish twits who do this. Come to think of it - how about reinstating the stocks for such crimes? Squashy tomatoes, anyone?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

My babies

We've had a lovely day because both Daughter 2 and Son have been home for the weekend and we met up briefly with Daughter 1, Grandchildren, Son-in-Law 1 and his visiting parents in the park.

Daughters and Granddaughter. It was windy, hence Daughter 1's scarf.

Son and Grandson enjoyed a swing.

I wish I had eyelashes like that.

Back home: we have become a 3-iPad family... normally all in different households, though. My dad, who was involved in the very early development of computers, when one computer took up a whole room, would have been utterly amazed to see an iPad.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Being Granny

I spent most of the day with the grandchildren at their house (such a sacrifice) so that their parents could get on with things a bit.

At 5.15pm, I got up to go. "Granny's off now. Bye bye," I said to Grandson.

"Bye bye," he said. Then his lower lip trembled as he looked out of the window at my car. "Car?" he said hopefully.

I chose to interpret this as, "You are one of my favourite people. Please take me with you so that we can spend more quality time together." It's possible that he actually meant, "I really like vehicles and we don't have a car. I'd like to come with you and sit in your car to point out all traffic lights, taxis, buses and lorries on the journey."

"No," I said. "It's a bit late to come to Granny's house."

He looked sad.

"Maybe Mummy'll show you one of your tractor videos," I suggested.

His face brightened and he went over to the television. "Tactahs," he said enthusiastically to Daughter 1, ignoring me as I left.

Ah well.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Beating the carpets

This was one of the exhibits in the museum we went to the other day with our friends, and it really took me back to my childhood.

When I was a little girl - before I was twelve, when we moved to a much larger house - we lived in a bungalow in Durham Terrace in Edinburgh. For most of this time, like most people, we had no fitted carpets - they didn't really exist - so on the floor we had large carpet squares laid on polished linoleum. And when spring cleaning came along, the carpets and rugs were taken outside, hung on the clothes line and beaten with a carpet beater like these ones.

My dad never did any housework so it was my mother who did this, helped by me when I got big enough. It was very hard work, and though I expect it did wonders for our upper body strength. it also made us dirty. Thumping the rugs with a carpet beater brought clouds of dust out of them and on to us: not just the reasonably clean dust that we get nowadays but sooty dust engendered by a coal fire. Even though we only had the one coal fire, in the sitting room, the muck got into other rooms as well. I imagine that the air outside was much dirtier also, from our neighbours' chimneys. I remember window sills being gritty from this dust.

I must have been about ten when we first got a fitted carpet in the living room. By this time we had a vacuum cleaner. My mother was ecstatic at not having to polish the linoleum at the sides of the room and everything seemed much cosier. (This was of course a bit of an illusion because in winter, a house heated by one coal fire (and a couple of convector heaters in the very dead of winter) was very far from warm.)

My mother never understood the modern fashion for rugs on floorboards. It's interesting, isn't it, how styles come round again, though usually slightly altered? I can't see carpet beaters coming back into use, though.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Three wishes

Well, my very kind Son-in-Law 1 has worked out a way of subverting Blogger's cunning plan to stop me posting pictures so here are some. It's much more of a fiddle than the old procedure, so I may have to take up his other suggestion, which is to convert to Google Chrome. Anyway, here you can see a goat eating the newly-built extension to the restaurant at Gloagburn Farm, where we had lunch with Son on Thursday. I feel they may have to rethink their policy on their free-range goats.

This is Branklyn Gardens, which are very lovely, full of peat-loving plants.

Here are their glorious mecanopsis...

... which they're able to grow in large quantities. Unlike me. I wish I could.

And here is Son, sheltering from the (yes!) hot sun which we've had all week.

These are some of the many exhibits at the museum yesterday.

We all went round saying, "Oh, my granny had one of those." One felt depressingly historical.

We went for a walk beside the river afterwards.

There were wild flowers in profusion. It was hot again.

I wish I lived in the country. In summer, anyway.

Here's Sirius enjoying the sun in our back garden. He really isn't very well, still breathing shallowly and occasionally coughing. We're worried about him. He goes back to the vet on Friday. I'm not looking forward to hearing what the vet says. I wish I had a magic wand to make Sirius better. He's such a pleasant and tolerant cat.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Bad bad Blogger again

Well, still Grrr because Blogger still won't let me upload photos.

Thank you for your Harold-Fry-related thoughts and your reading suggestions. I tried ordering The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood from the library but it didn't exist on the catalogue, so instead I've ordered the same writer's The Knitting Circle. I was amused by the category assigned to it by the library: Knitting Therapeutic Use Fiction. I wonder if it's a very large category.

We've had beautiful weather here for more than a week now. If I have a criticism, it's that it's been a bit hot for gardening; however, one shouldn't complain so I won't. The cats love the sun and have been doing a lot of basking, though being black cats and therefore absorbing heat, they sometimes have to go and bask in the shade.

We've been whizzing around for the past couple of days. Yesterday we went with Son to Branklyn Gardens in Perth - very lovely; wish I could show you the photos of their blue mecanopsis poppies, which grow in huge drifts. I don't find them easy to keep alive, though bought another plant recently in a triumph-of-hope-over-experience frame of mind. It's one of those plants that's labelled "Likes moist but well-drained soil", which always translates in my mind to "Will die soon", since by definition if soil is well-drained, then it dries out. Branklyn is a very sloping garden so maybe that's the answer. It's in Scotland = moist and it's on a slope = doesn't stay soggy. Perhaps I need to construct a small hill in my garden.

Then today we went with friends to The Museum of Ayrshire Country Life and Costume at Dalgarven Mill, which was most interesting. There's been a water mill on this site since the 13th century, but the old buildings were destroyed in the middle of the 19th century and were then rebuilt. The chap that now owns it is a retired architect. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the millers there, but after his father retired the buildings became derelict. He has restored them and accumulated a collection of over 2000 items of antique clothing from local people, as well as household equipment, farm equipment - and almost everything else you could imagine. The owner was there and told us all about his restoration and the collections; and his wife served us tea and cake. Again, I have photos. Should you ever be in Ayrshire, it's well worth a visit.

Now I must go and practise Scott Joplin's The Entertainer, or at least the first bit. You would not be particularly entertained by my rendering. As usual, it's easy enough(ish) with separate hands. However, since the rhythm in the two hands is very different, it's far harder to play both hands together. I limp through it. Perhaps I'll have a cup of tea first.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Walking away

Grrr. Blogger has gone funny again and I can't see how to post photos of the flower show I went to at the weekend. Ah well.

I'm interested in people's varied reactions to novels - eg the Harold Fry one. I read it for my book group and while most of us didn't like it much, a couple really loved it, like some of my commenters. I'd like to say first of all that I greatly admire anyone who can actually write a whole novel. It's not an easy thing to do and requires imagination and a lot of work.

But I actually found this one quite hard to struggle through. To me, it had an oppressive atmosphere: I finished it late at night and then couldn't sleep. It's about this old chap, Harold, who gets a letter from an ex-colleague who did something mysterious for him in the past. She's now dying. He sets out for a walk. Then he just keeps walking - from his home in the south of England to where she is in Berwick (I think it was) in the very north of England. At first it's quite intriguing but as he keeps walking, in his yachting shoes (not a term I was familiar with but then I don't do a lot of yachting) he gets terrible blisters and hardly eats. Yet he plods on, torturing himself by thinking about the past and about his son, whom he never sees (and it's quite easy to guess why not) and I found it all horribly depressing but at the same time unbelievable. A whole lot of new characters are introduced after a while but they aren't really very significant and then they all go away again, which seems rather pointless. And it's stressful because you don't know if he's going to reach his friend in time. And then in the end - why? - better not say, but .... hmm. Didn't like that bit either.

I realise that it's supposed to be a sort of fable with perhaps a nod to Pilgrim's Progress, and thus maybe it's unreasonable to expect it to be realistic. But then the style was intermittently jokey, which didn't seem to fit with this more serious aspiration.

But lots of people love it and it got good reviews so maybe I'm wrong.

A novel about a spontaneous journey that I much prefer is Anne Tyler's A Ladder of Years. In this, Delia (I think her name is) just walks off along the beach from her grown-up family, who no longer pay much attention to her, gets a lift to a nearby town and starts a new life. I could believe that someone might just do this, that events might turn out as they do in the book and that the emotions might be as described.

I suppose I first read this when the children were small. I used to teach evening classes and once a week I would rush out of the house when Mr L came home and tear up to the college, where I would become a different person: not the mummy of three small people who covered the house with a thin layer of toys and crayons and bit of card and paper but a wise teacher who knew about literature, sentence structure and how to pass (English) exams. And after the students went away, I would get myself organised to go home but feel a certain reluctance to do so - knowing that a couple of the children would be awake and bouncing around and that a certain amount of chaos would still reign. I would get in the car and drive towards home and vaguely fantasise about just driving on past the house till I got somewhere else... .

I mentioned this some friends the other day in an of-course-everyone-feels-like-this-sometimes sort of way and they looked at me and shook their heads in wonder and said... no-o-o.

I wouldn't actually have done it. But I think that's why I like the Anne Tyler so much and was disappointed in the Harold Fry book. I would have bought proper boots if I'd been him. And then got the train.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Books books books - mainly

I'm posting two pictures of Grandson just because I think he's so cute - one on holiday in Durham and one in his sandpit in our back garden.

I think I took this one just before he tried eating the sand. A valuable lesson in life... .

But what this post is really about is books. I always have a book (or two) on the go, but don't usually read except in the bath or in bed so don't get through them very fast. I don't really know why not - you'd think I'd have plenty of time, now I'm retired - but somehow life seems busy and it seems very decadent to read books during the day. On holiday, however, I get through far more reading. Above are some of the books I read while away. Aha, I thought: I'm diminishing the stash of unread ones.

But the snag is that one of the pleasures of British holidays is going to second-hand bookshops. Above are some of those I found myself buying... . No will power, that's the trouble.

Since turning 60, nearly three years ago now, I've kept a note of the books I've read. I'm sure I've forgotten to note some down, but there are about 110 of them. And this makes me look at the goodness-knows-how-many books I possess and would like to re-read (as well as reading lots of new ones, of course) and think: unless I live till I'm 120 and never read anything else, I'm really not going to get round to them all.

Ah well.

The books I read in May are (with their marks out of 10):

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce (5 or 6)
The Smoking Diaries, Simon Gray (8)
Choir, Gareth Malone (8)
Last Letters to a Friend, Rose Macaulay (7)
What to Look for in Winter, Candia McWilliam (9 or 9 and a half)
A Lot to Ask, A Life of Barbara Pym, Hazel Holt (8)
Diary of a Country Parson, James Woodforde (re-read) (9)
The Last Diary, Alan Clark (7 or 8)
You Can't Be Neutral in a Moving Train, Howard Zinn (8)

and at the moment I'm reading a biography of Rose Macaulay because I didn't really know much about her apart from what she wrote in those letters.

I don't read very many novels - only one in my May list (Harold Fry - didn't like it much) is a novel. It's not that I don't like fiction - I enjoy some fiction very much indeed. But I find biographies and diaries and letters more reliably gripping. Which I suppose is why I like reading blogs.

And you? What are you reading and would you recommend it? Not that I can POSSIBLY acquire any more books till I finish the ones I've got.

Happy Birthday, darling Daughter 2. Miss you lots and lots.