Wednesday, July 31, 2013


The day we visited Peel happened to be the day of the Peel Carnival, which we would probably have avoided had we known it was happening but which in fact was great fun, especially as we hadn't had to organise any of it. It featured things such as the above dragon? caterpillar? We enjoyed hearing ten chaps discussing the best way to make the thing work - all with slightly different opinions.

There was this (jolly good) jazz band...

... and a few relaxed police officers, some of them wearing a white helmet like the one above. "I wonder if this is the summer helmet?" said Mr L, but we didn't like to ask. Scottish policemen don't wear helmets so we always think English bobbies look somewhat comical.

We sat having a coffee near this girl who was in her bra and tights. We felt there must be a reason for her attire.

The Carnival Queen and her attendants and their mums.

Children in fancy dress, in this case Lion-King-themed.

A rather fine Dalek.

This is Manannan, the giant of Man, who has a cloak of invisibility which he throws round the island to wreathe it in fog.

Not today, though.

Look! Our bra-wearing lady on stilts! Aha.

Of course, yesterday, the day after we got home, I was desperate to spend time with Grandson. Here's a photo for Nanny and Gramps in Worcester.

Tomorrow we're away again, this time to London to visit Daughter 2 for a week, so I must go and finish getting organised for the next set of catsitters. One long round of fun, that's the retired life.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The lovely Isle of Man

We've been away in the Isle of Man, house-swapping. Indeed, house- and cat-swapping. As I've sighed before, it's hard to go away if you a) have cats and b) are too soft-hearted and neurotic to put them in a cattery. We used to house-swap when the children were small, even though we didn't have cats then. (Some bloggy friends may remember that we became feline slaves only after a sustained get-a-cat campaign by our son - who quite shortly afterwards left home.)

We used to house-swap because we couldn't really afford to go interesting places very often with three offspring but in fact we quite liked it. It's fun living in someone's house and trying to work out what they're like... and seeing how other people organise their lives. It's hard work before you go, especially if there are lots of you, since you have to make up all the beds on the day you leave home (and clean your oven and the darker recesses of your cupboards, just in case your visitors have a look there). However, with only two of us it was much easier.

The cats we looked after, Ginger and Laxey, were Manx - what I mean is not just that they live on the Isle of Man (obviously) but that they have no tails, or just a tiny stump, which they waggle just as if they had proper swishy ones. (They were born tailless - they weren't victims of tail chopping.) They were very sweet and friendly. I think our cats are always just as happy to see our various catsitters as they are with our ministrations, which is good but slightly insulting.

We were in Douglas - above and below - which is a pretty seaside town with a long promenade...

... and an impressive gardening department.

The weather was pretty good - Mr L had to wear his sunhat -

 ... except this day, when we went to a very historic village down by the sea, with beautiful views. Apparently.

Look at this scenery, though. Isn't it pretty?

We visited lots of historic sites including Peel Castle, originally built by Vikings in the 11th century, though added to a lot here and there, sometimes as recently as the 14th. Positively modern, those bits.

It has nice views over the town of Peel...

... and also in the other direction. This, of course, was the point, since it was built for defensive purposes.

We really loved the island. It's only slightly bigger than Arran in Scotland - but a lot further out into the sea and much more populated. Arran has about 5000 people living in it while the Isle of Man has over 83,000. Most of them are in four main towns, though, so there's a lot of lovely emptiness in the middle. But it felt like a real community. The Manx language is a form of Gaelic, though there are no native speakers any more. There is a movement to revive it and all the signs are in Manx as well as English, but it doesn't seem awfully likely to become a living language again. There exist recordings of native speakers but I can't imagine anyone becoming really fluent by just learning it without being surrounded by it. I hope I'm wrong.

Meanwhile there are phrase books to teach holidaymakers or children or any interested parties a bit of the language. For example, there are various responses to "How are you?" The one I like best is translated as "Going and grumbling". I plan to adopt this phrase. Sometimes it's how one feels.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


By popular(ish) request: Toffee Truffle Bombes. I have no idea about the quantities in cups and tablespoons - sorry. It sounds like a terrible fiddle but in fact it doesn't take up much cooking time - though you need to allow time for cooling, freezing etc.

You need for the toffee bit:
150g or 5oz toffees - but actually I use fudge
150ml or quarter pint milk (I used full cream milk but have used semi-skimmed also)
150ml or quarter pint double cream, ie cream that you can whip
and then for the chocolate bit:
another 150ml or quarter pint double cream
150g or 5oz plain chocolate, in bits.

The original recipe says to put the toffee in the freezer to make it brittle and then to chop it into little bits. But don't! I got Mr L to do this the first time. It took a lot of effort and Mr L and the kitchen ended up covered in tiny fragments of toffee. Very very sticky. So I now use fudge, which can be chopped in seconds and stays on the plate. You put the fudge in a saucepan with the milk and heat this slowly till the fudge is melted - see picture above. Let it cool and put it in the fridge to chill.

Then you whip the 150mls of cream softly, as above, and fold in the chilled fudge mixture, as below.

Then you put it in the freezer till it's solid: 1 - 2 hours.

Meanwhile you make the chocolate part by heating the other 150mls of cream in a pan till it's at boiling point, taking it off the heat and adding the chopped chocolate, so that it melts. Put in fridge to chill.

Ideally, you've left the toffee stuff longer than I did (which was about an hour - two would be better). In any case, you take it out of the freezer, beat it briefly and then spoon it into freezer-proof ramekins or cups. If it's amenable, then you make a hollow in the middle (for the chocolate layer) but this time mine was a bit soft and didn't co-operate. But it didn't matter. Then you put the cups in the freezer for 30 minutes...

... and then spoon the chocolate goo on top of the fudge layer (or in the hollow you left in the fudge bit, if you did). Then put them back in the freezer for as long as you like. 20 minutes before you serve them, move them into the fridge to soften very slightly.
When you want to serve them, float the cups briefly in hot water and run a palette knife round them to unmould the bombes, chocolate side down. You can sprinkle flaked chocolate or whatever on the top if you want to be fancy. I thought of taking a picture of the final effect but our friends were sitting there and it's quite hard to explain to a non-blogger why you're taking a photo of their pudding... .
They're very nice but not at all healthy - though we had strawberries with them, which of course cancelled out all the calories.

And this is a picture of the other grandmother and Grandson appreciating a book about Spot the Dog's birthday. Isn't he lovely too?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ladies merely glow

This is not a photo of me. It's Granddaughter. But I can tell that she feels exactly the same as I do about this heat wave that we've been experiencing for... oh... a couple of weeks now. Maybe not quite as long. Ten days? Anyway, IT'S FAR TOO HOT AND WE DON'T LIKE IT.

I've been vaguely trying to find out how hot it's been today but can only find out what the temperature is now (8 pm), which is 25C or 77F, so it must have been considerably hotter earlier. I really dislike heat. You can't really do anything outside (well, I can't, being a fair-skinned person who DOESN'T LIKE BEING STICKY). Even the poor old cats have to lie under the hedge in the shade. I can't understand why anyone would want to live anywhere hot. You can't go for a walk. Mind you, I couldn't anyway with my poor (probably) broken toe.

Yes. I am indeed grumpy.

According to one website, the highest temperature ever recorded in Edinburgh was 31.4°C (88.5°F) on 4 August 1975 and 2 August 1990. Really? Can't say I remember either of these and I'd have thought I would. August 1990 might have been the time we were holidaying in London and the temperature got to 99F - 37.2222C. I certainly remember that. Poor Daughter 2 is sweltering in London at the moment.

Well, out I go to the garden. This time I must really sweep up the paving, which is a bit leafy/dusty. I've been putting this off because - have I mentioned this? - it's not been the weather for physical activity. And then I must spend ages watering - not something we usually have to do. Rain, that's what we need. And expect. (And, sometimes, complain about.)

Ok, rant over. I shall go and count some blessings and later on make Toffee Truffle Bombes for tomorrow, when we're having friends to dinner.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It was a very special day today. Daughter 1 had made a card because she couldn't find one with tactahs on it.  Particularly not tactahs and guinea pigs.

We had coffee in Dynamic Earth ...

 ... and then went into Holyrood Park and up the hill path a little bit...

... looking back at Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the monarch when he or she comes to Edinburgh.

Every city (we think) should have some rolling hills in the middle of it.

Granddaughter met up with her unbirthday presents. You can see that she likes them!

The afternoon featured a lot of bubbles...

... and excited running around.

I have a lot of blurry pictures.

Happy Birthday, darling little N. You bring such joy into our lives.

Monday, July 15, 2013

No, Anna. I didn't make these.

Long-term bloggy friends may remember that Dianne of A Month of Sundays , with unbelievable generosity made Grandson a wonderful quilt and afghan when he was born. They have been in constant use.

More recently, you may also remember that she sent a very similar afghan and a woobie for Granddaughter - both also so kind  and so much appreciated.

Now look what arrived for Granddaughter today! Isn't it absolutely beautiful?

The work involved!!!! And the kindness!!!! Look at all the wee squares! And the black outlines! And the different materials!

Look - the quilting is in the form of caterpillars!!!!

And as if that wasn't enough, her daughter Auntia (not her real name) has made another afghan, to tone with the quilt.

It's not often that I find it difficult to express myself, but on this occasion... words fail. But I will say - I'm overcome with their kindness. Thank you so much!

Toe? What toe? Tooth? What tooth?

PS I have just noticed (at 6.34 the following morning - a time when I am not normally at my brightest) that the quilt is made up of L shapes. Granddaughter's name begins with an L! What an amazing design feature and how stupid of me not to notice before.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Beware of tea cosies

This is Grandson today about to descend a chute, as we call it in Scotland but (I think) not in England, where it tends to be a slide. I've included the photo for aesthetic reasons, since the main subjects of this post are rather less photogenic.

You know those unlikely accident statistics in which one reads that (for example) in Britain last year there were 390 reported accidents involving tea cosies, another 288 in which the culprit was a picture frame and a further 125 incidents of injury by stationery? And you think: what on earth were those people doing?

Well, the day before yesterday I was hurt by my wardrobe. I'm putting it this way to make it sound less like my fault. The fact is that I kicked the wardrobe, hard, with my bare left foot. I didn't mean to; I was just bustling between it and the bed, intent on getting to the chair where my clothes were. "Did the wardrobe make a sudden move?" enquired Son-in-Law 1, when I told him about this. I have to admit that it didn't. I wish it had in fact sprung smartly backwards as I approached. Only one toe is very sore, but it's more incapacitating than you'd think, being unable to put one toe to the ground without pain.

More unusual, I thought, was the recent attack on me by Mr L's iPad. He was lying on his back on the sofa reading the news on his beloved tablet. Something of interest caught his attention and he beckoned me over. I lay down beside him, turned my head towards the iPad and he tilted it towards me. At least I assume that this was what he intended to do. What he actually did was to drop the iPad on the side of my face and snap off my crowned premolar.

Thus I have been having dental attention and have a tender mouth as well as a sore foot.

I told the dentist this tale, expecting a merry laugh, but he told me, very seriously, that this is a common experience. "You were lucky," he said. "Lots of people drop their iPads on their own faces when they're reading in bed, and they break their front teeth."

You have been warned.

I don't feel all that lucky.

I hope a third piece of luck isn't coming my way soon.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thinking as a child...

To cast off thoughts of murder and gloom, I met up with friends yesterday near the beach. Look: blue sky and sea. There were people swimming, though I imagine hypothermia wasn't far off for them. There was a brisk wind.

Despite what Amy thinks, Scotland isn't that cold in the winter, or at least our part isn't. We're in a temperate climate. I mean, we do get occasional frost and snow but more often, at its worst, it's just damp and windy. As for air-conditioning, Violet Sky, the big shops now have it, but it's very seldom really necessary and it's bad for the environment, surely?

Today Daughter 1 and I went with the children to our beloved Botanic Gardens.

Despite the heat wave, Grandson found a puddle to splash in. (Not from rain; from the watering of the gardens.)

It's nice to enter imaginatively into his world sometimes. Like most children, he likes to add sound effects when he sees animals: woof-woof and so on. Today, there was a fly in the kitchen. "Cheep-cheep," he observed. Flies would be more acceptable if they sang, don't you think?

And some months ago he visited London with Daughter 1. Looking up at the tower of Big Ben with its four enormous clock faces, he said, "Tick-tock" and then "Cuckoo". Wouldn't it be wonderful if four huge cuckoos popped out of there every hour on the hour?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Most foul

One really shouldn't complain but ... it's been rather hot. I would like to work in the garden but really it's much too warm. According to the internet it was about 25C here today, which is 77F - and yes, you may laugh, you Mid-Westerners, but we're Scottish and we wilt in the heat. It's been lovely sitting in the shade reading a book, however, so I have to admit to a bit of sloth for the past few days.

We have various visitors coming soon, but no doubt the weather will have broken by then. We'll be able to say to them that it's such a pity they weren't here earlier in July... .

In a completely different realm of seriousness, we've been somewhat riveted in our neighbourhood by a murder. About four weeks ago, a woman's dismembered body was found in a shallow grave on a hillside really quite close to our house - at least quite close as the crow flies. It appeared to have been there for some weeks. Despite appeals and much publicity, the police didn't know who she was. This was curious because she had about £10,000 worth of veneers on her teeth and was wearing four distinctive rings - surely this would identify her? But no. Then they did one of those facial-reconstruction things that they do sometimes on Iron Age skulls or Richard III - at which point her family in Dublin recognised the computer-generated image produced. (I've always wondered if those reconstructions are really like the people. In this case, yes, fairly, by the look of actual photos of her now appearing in the papers.) Her son has been arrested and charged with her murder. According to the papers, he lives quite near us also. She was in Edinburgh visiting him.

I know that people get murdered in various places but - illogically - it seems
particularly shocking that it happened (presumably) in a road that we frequently walk along. The police said that the murderer must have had the body in a rucksack or something to carry it up the hill. And he must have had a spade also. It's so weird to imagine this chap, at dead of night (and it doesn't really get dark for long here at this time of year) creeping up his street with his terrible burden, crossing over the main road and struggling a little way up the hill.

It's appalling to think of someone killing his own mother. And I can only assume that he expected to be caught - maybe even wanted to be caught - since he buried her so near home, in a shallow grave and on a hill where many people go for a walk, often with their dogs. What was going through his mind as he waited for her to be identified and for the police to ring his doorbell?

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Cake and other excitement

We're having rather a good summer, particularly compared to the two previous ones. The garden is blooming. I do love these alliums.

Pink, purple and green - I wouldn't like this combination in a dress but I do like it in a garden.

For once, the paeonies aren't being ruined by rain.

The house is full of lovely birthday flowers.


... and red.

Daughter 2, Son and Daughter-in-Law came for the weekend. Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1 and the grandbabies are down in England visiting the other grandparents.

 We had cake.

And ate it. Mr L wore his sunhat. Very sensible.

Then we went for lunch in the Sheraton Hotel. This was the view from our table.

Sibling togetherness.

The square outside filled up with people watching the men's final at Wimbledon on a big screen.

We returned home to catch most of it. It was so exciting that Son and Daughter-in-Law had to stop watching and go and sit in the garden for a while to calm down.

And Andy Murray won! We were delighted for him; and modestly proud of Scotland's success - or at least the success of Scotland and Spain, where he went to tennis school, and Ivan Lendl, who coaches him, and Miami, where he goes to practise, and all the English people who practise with him and massage him and do all the other stuff. Well done, anyway. It was exhausting just to watch so we had to take it easy afterwards.

And now the descendants have gone again and sadly it's just us and the cats. And the flowers and the remains of the cake (so, not all bad, then).