Saturday, December 26, 2015

Still very quiet around here...

And so that was Christmas. Our day was very pleasant: extremely quiet and lazy. I don't often do lazy but it made an interesting change. Our son gave me this beautiful glass bowl, made by Etling in the 1930s. I had admired it in an antiques centre but had no idea that he'd gone back and bought it. I'm a great lover of glass and this is rather Lalique-like: opalescent with a sinuous pattern of (according to one website) sea anemones or (according to another) sunflowers. When you look at it from the side under a light, the middles of the flowers (if they are flowers) look yellow, so I'm slightly inclined towards the sunflower theory, though the petals aren't very sunflowery in shape. I love it, anyway.

Most of my presents were books, all exactly the sort of things I like to read. I don't read many novels - not because I don't like the novel as a form, just because there are a lot that are depressing or alarming or a touch on the sordid side and frankly, I haven't got enough life left to want to read stuff that I don't enjoy. One novel that I read recently and absolutely loved was "Gillespie and I" by Jane Harris. I thought it was well-written, evocative and convincing. In fact, the moment I finished it I started rereading it. I mentioned it to my friend Morag because I thought she'd like it too, and was about to expand on its excellence when she said, "Oh yes, I've got that but I couldn't get into it." So it's all a matter of taste. But I know I'll like biographies and letters and diaries. "A Notable Woman" is the diary of a woman who lived in the first three-quarters of last century and contributed to the Mass Observation diary project. After she died, her niece found that she'd written personal diaries all her life, hoping that one day they'd be published. They're fascinating. She never achieved anything special but she's very honest about her life. So far I've only read up till she's in her early thirties and still hoping to find the love of her life; she never did.

So, yes, nothing's happened. We've been out for walks both today and yesterday and neither time did we meet anyone apart from a few dog-walkers. Today has been quite wet and it was perhaps a bit mad to go trudging through the puddles, but you can justify laziness only to a certain extent.

Now I'm off to cut out strips of green fabric. I hope that all my bloggy friends and lurkers are having a lovely Christmas season; and I send my sympathy to any who aren't.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Santa Claus is coming tonight

This was the last Advent present: a hedgehog wearing a Santa hat. Hedgehogs are significant to Mr L and me... and not all that often associated with Christmas, so well done and thank you, dear Daughter 2.

We went for a walk today...

... through the Ravelston Woods to Blackhall, where, to our disappointment, the café was closed - you'd think it was a holiday season or something.

However, we went to Marks and Spencer instead because... well, you know. It was there. And so were cheese scones.

Then we worked them off by walking along the cycle track...

... and homeward.

Then we watched "Bargain Hunt" and wrapped the presents. Later, I did some ironing. Got to make Christmas Eve special.
So Happy Christmas when it comes (or, in my Antipodean friends' cases, when it came). We shall be here in our silent, tidy house... quite enjoying it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


The penultimate Advent gift. Thank you, Daughter 2. I must find something to erase.

Daughter 1, husband and children are now down in England on the way to visit his folks; Daughter 2 is with her husband's folks, also in England; Son is at his house, where he'll celebrate Christmas with his wife's family. So our house is quiet and tidy and will remain so for several days. Mind you, I plan to cut out lots of strips and little squares of material tomorrow, so that'll mess up the kitchen, aka my sewing room, more than somewhat.

I'll miss the offspring of course, but Christmas Day is only a day and we'll be fine. In a way, I'm missing my parents more: the children will be back before or at least at New Year and my parents definitely will not. I suppose that being temporarily childless reminds me of the early days of our marriage. But then, Mum and Dad were only up the road - and I felt obliged to keep in touch with them - though of course I also wanted to do so. Now, for a few days, we have absolutely no obligations, which feels extremely weird but perhaps faintly exciting.

Maybe we'll... oh, I don't know... go for a walk and have a coffee somewhere. You think?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Unwrapping. And lifting.

Just in case you've been on tenterhooks... oh, you haven't?... to see what other wonders Daughter 2 has found for Advent gifts, here are the most recent ones.

Chocolate sprouts. Always a pleasure to receive.

A wee wind-up torch keyring. Grandson was very intrigued by this.

Two fudge bars. Yes, I realise that this is only one. Now, it's none.

More healthful chocolate sprouts.

And, today, an assemble-it-yourself set of little gnomes. We haven't yet done the assembly.

It's been a busy little while: Daughter 2 was home for a few days, Son and Daughter-in-Law came down from their northern fastness (well, house) to visit and of course Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1 and the grandchildren were around too. So that was nice.

Son demonstrated his upper body strength... .

Daughter 2 took this picture so I'm not quite sure why Granddaughter was looking over the hedge into the neighbours' garden.

Son carried Grandson like this for the second half of our walk. Grandson's perfectly capable of walking, but obviously sitting on his uncle like a king on his throne is more relaxing. For him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Advent gifts, day 15: useful notebooks. Fortunately Grandson wasn't here; he prefers edible presents. But these are lovely!

And this evening I felt the need to cheer myself up, so I started cutting out a new quilt, this time for Son and Daughter-in-Law. Unlike those who can produce such a thing in a matter of days, I predict that I might be finished around summer time. All I've done so far is to cut out twenty-two 5-inch squares, so there's a long way to go. But it's nice to handle pretty material. At the moment I've got cats, generic birds, owls, dragonflies, butterflies, mice, bees and toadstools... or possibly mushrooms. None of these is exactly naturalistic.

I may (will) have to buy some plain fabric but otherwise will be using, and thus (slightly) reducing, my stash. So that's good.  I feel better already.

Monday, December 14, 2015


These were delicious chocolate truffles yesterday, thank you, Daughter 2.  There's one left over which has been promised to Grandson next time he's here. I wonder if he'll remember? (That's a rhetorical question.)

We just ate these ourselves today, since the grandchildren didn't visit. Yum.

Grandson likes to sit at the piano, bashing away experimentally. I wish I could play well enough to fascinate him with my brilliance and thus, possibly, inspire him to play an actual tune. (Mind you, my father could play brilliantly and this didn't inspire me other than in an I-wish-I-could-play-without-bothering-to-learn-and-practise way.)

Yesterday, however, he drew these notes. I was quite surprised; my music is open on the music stand bit of the piano (does this have a name?) but we'd never discussed it. Granted, they're not on a stave; but they are recognisable notes. He then proceeded to sing us the song that he said it represented: this was meant to be a carol, I suppose, which began "Baby Jesus didn't fall down" and continued for a while. He is a hoot.

The notes reminded me of my dad. Because he was very musical, people tended to send him birthday cards with musical notes on them, and because he was also a bit - hmm, well - critical, it would irritate him if they were just random notes, as above, rather than a piece of accurate musical notation. Card manufacturers, are you listening?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Getting there...

The tree: before.

The tree: after. I expect that if I put this much effort into my own appearance, I too could look startlingly better. Or at least shinier.

And twinklier.

Mr and Mrs Elf are mildly impressed by our efforts.

I've had this glass Christmas tree box for... thirty years? Forty? It looks better without the flash from my camera.

Today's Advent present: some very useful hair clasps for Granddaughter. She has a tendency to remove her clasps and lose them, so now I can replace them, thus keeping her hair out of her eyes. She doesn't like her hair being in her eyes but hasn't yet attained the age of complete understanding of cause and effect. (Which of us has?) It's just as well that Grandson wasn't here to open the parcel. I don't think he would have been as impressed as he is with the comestible gifts.

Friday, December 11, 2015

It's beginning to seem a lot like...

I shall shortly stop going on about Mr Gjeilo, who's clearly ten times the musician I'll ever be so I suppose he must know what he's doing. It's been interesting, though, to have comments from Mrs Splapthing (just noticed that extra "p", sorry) and also Keryn. Hello! Keryn is entirely right, now I think of it, that OG is using the choir as an instrument and not the main thing; and yes, I don't like "mm"ing. Also, as she says, the music is quite filmic - which is why it sounds to me like background music to something more interesting.

Right, I've finished and will now become less grumpy.

I didn't take a photo of today's Advent goodies because I was keeping them for Grandson to open (he's very interested in presents even if they're not strictly for him). Once this happened, he quite swiftly suggested that he could eat my chocolate reindeer for me. And did. And then he suggested that Mr L should eat his chocolate reindeer, and, always willing to oblige, Mr L did. Thus the photo got forgotten till too late.

Still, here are some pictures of grandchildren and road and rail layouts for Nanny in Worcester.

And it suddenly occurred to me that this would be an appropriate time of year to unearth the Christmas quilt to drape over us while we watched some restorative television after the departure of the small and beloved but exhausting visitors. There's not much point in having a Christmas quilt, but this would seem to be the relevant month.

Tomorrow: decorate the tree and the house. Ho ho ho.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Luminous night of the gingerbread men

Advent presents: day 10. Grandson looked at them covetously and indicated that he'd like to eat one. We agreed that he could, as long as he ate his tea (ie evening meal) first. But then we both forgot. But I'll keep it for him. He'll be back tomorrow.

Thanks to Mrs Slapthing (who are you?) for your comforting (I think) words about "Luminous Night of the Soul". I do not myself think it's gorgeous, though will admit that it has some quite nice bits. But it's very repetitive (only, you know, slightly different each time just to make it more difficult) and we spend a lot of time on the dreary bits, which of course have to be right, and beautifully sung, because they're so misty and unforgiving.

I don't want to sing something with some quite nice bits. I want to sing big choral things with passages that make the heart leap and sing. The Missa Solemnis! Brahms' German Mass! The St Matthew Passion!

Perhaps if I'd come across it as a listener, I would be less prejudiced against it. But my first introduction was to the beginning: "Looooooooooong beeeeeeeeeee fooooooooore" - if you're a first soprano. Lots of the same note, which of course is not as easy to sing as you might think. Even the words are repetitive.

And we're singing two of his pieces! And another at my other choir! Overkill!

Anyway. I might change my mind, I suppose. Let's hope.

I've just YouTubed it and come across the Central Washington University Choir singing it (I'm listening to it now) with the piano played by a little chap who looked vaguely familiar, and have now realised that it's Ola himself. The cello bit at the very start is lovely, I'll admit. (And all the commenters agree with you, Mrs S. I refrained from a dissenting comment.) But the rest - on and on - what's he saying about the luminous night of the soul, anyway? Nothing.

Toffeeapple, I do (usually) love singing in a choir. I don't mind repetition of exciting stuff and it's so wonderful to hear and to be part of a big sound.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Deep sigh

Advent gifts day 9.

I've just come back from choir, where we're singing two pieces by Ola Gjeilo: "The Luminous Night of the Soul" and "Sunrise Mass". I keep hoping that they might grow on me but - nope, not so far. They manage to combine a) being quite difficult to sing even fairly well; b) sounding as if they would be quite easy (lots of repeated notes); and c) being extremely boring to rehearse. To make matters worse, we're singing his "Serenity" at my other choir. At least "Serenity" is mercifully short: over in six wafty minutes. Tonight's offerings comprise our whole programme. Gah.

I would just drop out for this year except that I'm the soprano representative - which basically involves taking the register, not a skilled task except that I'm the only one who knows all the sopranos' names (because of keeping the register). Also, it would seem a bit feeble. However, I'm strongly tempted. An weekly hour and three-quarters of watching the clock while we drone on; not my idea of fun.

He's an up-and-coming young composer so I suppose I must be wrong in my estimation of his music. But give me a bit of Mozart or Handel any day!

(I've just noticed that I put the apostrophe in the wrong place in sopranos'!! This indicates my level of overwroughtness! I have now corrected it. Goodness gracious me. I blame Ola Gjeilo, without a doubt.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015


The Advent Elf supplied us with more chocolate today. Yum. Thank you, Elf.

And the Rainbow Fairy supplied us with a beautiful rainbow while we were coming home from the supermarket. The sun was shining. Rain was also, briefly, pouring down.

By the time we got home, it had faded away. Just like - oh, I don't know - my intentions to get completely ready for Christmas this afternoon. I did bake two cakes, though, and do some internet shopping. Progress.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Day 7 of Advent, chocolate and other matters

I'm kind of hiding from the fact that it's coming up for Christmas and I should perhaps do a bit more to prepare for this. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll think seriously about it. Tomorrow I'll make the Christmas cakes. Yes, I know they're supposed to be made months in advance but I never do and it never seems to make any difference. I might also write some letters and cards. I will also think about presents.

In fact, I do need to be a bit more organised about presents since none of the offspring will be here... though in fact that maybe means I can be a bit less organised, since none of them will be here... and we might just do a post-Christmas Christmas.

We've mainly given Son and Daughter-in-Law their presents already, mind you, since we won't see them at Christmas and are unlikely to see them between now and then. Apart from anything else, the road bridge over the River Forth, which is between them and us, has developed faults and is to be closed till next year (and who knows when next year?) This is causing HUGE disruption for people who live on one side and work on the other, as well as for the distribution of goods and for people who want to visit friends and family. There are other bridges but they're considerably further upstream.

There has been, as we say in Scotland, a tremendous stooshie about this. The SNP (Scottish Nationalist Party, who're in charge) is said to have been cost-cutting and ignoring the reports of stress on the metalwork of the bridge.

One certainly wouldn't like to be plunged into the icy waters far beneath.

When I was a girl, there was no road bridge, only a rail bridge and a small car ferry. Thus people didn't make that journey much by car. Once the bridge was built, of course far more people used it than had been expected and thus it's now wearing out. They're building another one but it's not nearly finished yet. It's all interesting and - though not so much for us - somewhat trying.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Sticky markers and a fiendish plot

Today's Advent packet: sticky page markers. There was also an orange set but Grandson took them home with him. He'd never seen any before and plans to use them to mark the chapter in his bedtime story book.
We went on a bus today. He loves bus travel and observes everything with much seriousness. The other day he pointed out that with some traffic lights, even when a colour isn't lit up, you can still see what the colour of the glass is; whereas with others, the glass appears completely black when not lit. Moreover, with the former kind, the glass of the green light looks dark blue.
"Why, Granny?" Ummm... . I had to admit that I'd never noticed. Traffic lights are not my specialist subject.
Grandson [to his dad]: I wonder if I could make a potion to make my sister invisible?
His dad: Hmm. Well, there aren't really any such things as invisibility potions.
Grandson: Maybe we could just pile some things up in front of her?

(To put this in context, we'd been reading a book which featured invisibility potions and an annoying little sister... .)

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Sunshine and showers

Day 5 of our Advent gifts. We haven't eaten them ... yet.

Today the walking group was going to walk along the side of the Allan Water at Dunblane and then go for Christmas lunch. But this is what the weather has been like for the past couple of days...

... and this is the Allan Water. See that bit of river beside the railing? That's the path. So some of us did a different, shorter, walk and the rest of us... just got the train up to Dunblane, omitted the walk and had lunch. We all had good fun but some of us got wetter than others. Mr L and I wimped out and did the lunch-only option. We hardly felt guilty at all.

Meanwhile, Daughter 2 has been in Marrakech. You can't really tell the difference between Marrakech and Scotland in December.

Friday, December 04, 2015

The 4th

Today's Advent gift - not yet consumed, and a certain small person had his eye on one of them so I might keep mine for him. On the other hand, we do want him to retain his teeth so maybe I should just, callously, eat it.

Some bloggers and Facebook friends are posting pictures of Christmas trees and decorations. I can never get in the mood for decorating till much nearer the date. And the current howling wind and pelting rain don't feel particularly festive.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Advent and art

So, happy Advent. Daughter 2 has once more, this year, kindly sent us Advent presents. While Mr L and I appreciate these very much, one of the shorter members of the family is even more interested in them. He's not here every day, so we did get the opportunity to open (and eat) the first gift without him.

It was...

... delicious.

He wasn't here yesterday either but I did keep my polar bear and he ate it today.

He did appreciate today's offering but not so much as he appreciated the chocolate bear. Well, he is only four.

The children have been playing with my buttons. Some of them are from clothes of my mum's when she was a young woman. I particularly remember a green coat that she wore when I was a little girl, in the 50s. How she would have loved to see her great-grandchildren playing together.

There was also art.

Granddaughter drew a series of parallel (ish) lines. "That's a street," she said. I think this may be the effect of sharing a house with a road-layout-mad big brother.