Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I haven't seen the grandchildren since last Thursday so am pining for them. The (lovely) other grandparents were visiting last weekend and they were all busy; and then Grandson has Things To Do in the mornings at the beginning of the week and nursery in the afternoons. However, I'm hoping to see them briefly tomorrow. They live half an hour away, which is not something I'm really complaining about since if my other children ever have children, we'll not be able to see much of them at all; but even half an hour away means that going there to pick them up and bring them back here is an hour's journey, which takes up a lot of a morning when we have to return the lad, lunched, for nursery at 12.35.

While pining, I've been reading James Boswell's Edinburgh Journals 1767-1786, which are really fascinating. Boswell (the Scottish chap who wrote the life of Samuel Johnson) was extremely candid in his diary, detailing all (at least, one hopes it's all) his encounters with very naughty ladies and the diseases that he catches from them, as well as discussing his general feelings at length. He kept getting drunk and then swearing that it was the last time he was going to do this. He suffered from frequent depression, or "hypochondria", as he calls it, when he felt very dark and as if life wasn't worth living, but somehow managed to maintain a career as a lawyer - it helped that his father gave him an allowance so that he didn't have to live on his earnings alone. At other times, his mood lifted and he felt very happy and sociable.

His wife was a saint. Maybe she didn't have much choice; but still, she seemed to manage to forgive him all his transgressions - or at least he thought so. He did realise how lucky he was, which is something.

For example:
28 June: Hard drinking. Home sadly intoxicated, even insane. Vexed most valuable spouse. Was almost unconscious.
29 June: Awaked miserably vexed and ill. Saw myself a depraved creature. Lay till four. Wife had kindly made soup and chicken for me.
2 July: Ill from drinking. Very low and desponding.
4 July: Very wet. Drank too much. Drunk. Slept town. Felt Miss Montgomerie.
9 July: Night wandered and had handkerchief stolen.
11 July: Marriage of Betty Montgomerie. Supped at Montcrieff's. Drank too much. Wandered. James's Court. Dolly.
12 July: Awaked very ill. Wife had sat up late for me. She the worse of it. Had been alarmed with her bad health.
13 July: Was made very serious by my wife's bad health. Felt a kind of amazement when I viewed the possibility of losing her.
15 July: Wandered evening. Wife waiting at entry. Sad vexation.

And so on. And yet he's so repentant and so determined to be a better man that I can't help quite liking him sometimes. He was a very fond father and was often hurt because his own father didn't seem to take much interest in him. I imagine that Boswell senior was somewhat fed up with James. Edinburgh was a small place and I'm sure that his father, the Laird of Auchinleck, heard only too much about James's exploits and probably just wanted to pretend that it wasn't happening.  Still, this doesn't excuse the father asking one day what James's youngest son was called - bad enough - and then forgetting that the child had recently died!

What he says about Edinburgh and Edinburgh society is also very interesting, at least to an Edinburgh person. The New Town was just being built and he had a "country house" beside the Meadows - a park which is now in the middle of town. He was a bit scathing about people like David Hume, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson - now thought of as huge figures of the Enlightenment. Meeting them over a meal, he noticed when they were a bit vague or had what seem like dangerously radical ideas. I suppose it's difficult to regard someone that you see pootling around the place as historically important.

Anyway, I'm now going to read all the other published Boswelliana - which is quite a lot. Such fun.

This is what the Meadows look like now. We drove though them the other day and I thought about Boswell.

He'd have been surprised.

 He did write his diaries with a thought of posterity

but I don't suppose he expected posterity to have cars. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Walking in East Lothian

It was such a beautiful day today, as warm as summer. We walked in East Lothian, to the east of Edinburgh, with friends from church -

between ploughed fields,

through a wood where shadows striped the path,

 over fallen leaves

which crunched beneath our feet,

through a farmyard - the pink stone and tiled roofs so typical of the East Lothian countryside -

beside fields newly sown with winter wheat

or full of leeks which are ready to harvest

and down to the sea

where the sand was yellow, the sea was blue, the breakers were energetic and the wind was persistent,

with the Bass Rock in the distance, glittering white and home to 150,000 gannets, lots of guillemots, razorbills, puffins, cormorants, eider duck and various types of seagull. The whiteness is... the result of all those birds.

And then we didn't go on to this headland but instead turned back inland

through the woods

and towards the cars, then to

a tea shop, where we replaced the calories that we'd burned off over the last six miles. A lovely day.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


We took the little ones to the museum today.

Grandson always looks back to check that we're following but Granddaughter just heads confidently off into the distance.

One has to pursue her.

Then we came home and they played very assiduously. Granddaughter seems as keen on vehicles as her brother does, though maybe it's just that there are a lot to play with in our house.

Grandson spent a long time watching this snail. It makes my heart sing to watch him discovering the world.

He also gazed long at the little fountain: at how it creates bubbles between the pebbles and how the pebbles darken when they're wet. "Why do waterfalls make a noise?" he enquired. Well, umm... the water makes a noise when it hits more water, or rocks. "But why?" Errr... .

He asks "Why?" so much that this is one of his little sister's words. "Teddy," she says. "Pussy. Doggy. Book. Why?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Walking into town

Yesterday we went to the exhibition of American Impressionists at the Modern Art Gallery. I'm ashamed to say that we had never heard of quite a few of them, including the splendidly-named Childe Hassan and John Henry Twatchtman. They seemed jolly good to us, just as good as the French ones (though we wouldn't claim to be experts).

Then we walked into town through the top part of Dean Village, enjoying the autumnal air.

Here you can see the backs of some of the New Town houses. They must have a good view.

That red makes a statement.

It's always intriguing to look through narrow spaces at a sudden view.

These red roofs are almost worthy of Switzerland.

Up to the New Town itself: Georgian terraces.

This is the Dean Bridge, over which people occasionally jump, alas. It's a long way down.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Yesterday was a good day. In the morning I finished binding my little cot quilt, reflecting how ingenious the inventor of this technique was. You tuck it all in and fold the binding over so that no one would ever guess at the raggedy edges and loose threads. Maybe this is what blogging and Facebook allow us to do with our lives.

Then I went and collected Grandson, waiting while he enjoyed the story of Noddy and the stolen cars.

He came over to our house and played with his trains, undisturbed by any pesky little sisters. (As I've said before, our rug is not really as bright as this. It must have fibres which bend the light ... or something. Blame Ikea.)

There haven't been any frosts yet but most of the flowers in the garden are over, apart from bedding plants such as begonias and geraniums. This Busy Lizzie makes a splash of colour, though, inside and out. I've had it for years, or at least I keep it going from cuttings.

We went to the playpark ...

... and walked home by the river. Look at those autumn leaves. Despite the sunshine, the winter can't be far away.

And then he stayed the night. He's very cute in his pyjamas.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Some more nothing much

I've now attached the binding (the machine bit) to my much-neglected cot quilt. Cassie is hindering the next stage somewhat, but it's all hand-sewing from now on so it won't take too long. 

Son came down for the day yesterday and we went for a walk by the sea. It was a beautiful autumn day. He told us how he has become the go-to doctor in his practice when toenails need to be removed. Urgh.

We're hoping for continuing sunshine, since we have a leak in the roof. It rained last Friday night and dripped down right beside my bed. This isn't very conducive to peaceful sleep. A chap is coming to mend it on Saturday, "weather permitting". I do hope it permits.

This is quite picture-postcardy, don't you think?

That's Cramond Island. It's accessible by a causeway at low tide but cut off at other times.

Granddaughter is very jolly, if a bit dazzled by the flash.

Grandson loves playing with his traffic signs and cones. He doesn't seem bothered by the mismatch in sizes and has now added a policeman to keep things in order at the end of the line.

Me: I think you should go to the toilet before you go to nursery.
Him: No, I don't want to.
Me: I really think you should.
Him: No.
Me: [trying to guilt-trip him]:You don't want to make me sad, do you?
[Pause for thought]
Him: No, I don't. Would a cuddle help?

It did.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Clashing flowers and funerals

A friend recently gave me a bunch of flowers with a weird assortment of lilies, gerberas and chrysanthemums, none of which really went with each other. Aesthetically-speaking, I couldn't bear to put them in the same vase but thought I'd try floating these completely unmatching gerberas in a bowl. As I recently said about Swiss geraniums, I don't much like pink and red together; and I don't like orange at all, anywhere - I have no orange flowers in my garden. But somehow these three together almost work. I wouldn't like the combination in a cushion or curtains. But as a temporary vaseful - just about all right.

From which important announcement you may deduce that nothing much is happening around here.

Being the age we are, alas, we've been to a few funerals recently - and this must have been on my mind because last night I dreamt about going to another one. I'm not sure who the deceased was, but in the dream my attention was focused on the order of service. Nowadays, orders of service often have more than one photo of the person who's died, usually a younger and an older one. We did this for both of my parents - after all, what age is the real you? (as I've pondered before). The two most recent funerals we've attended have featured multiple photos with other family members in them too. So in my dream I went a bit further: the order of service had a link to click on which gave a message recorded for the purpose by the departed (prior to departure).

The congregation would all have to have tablets, or whatever, to download the document but I'm sure it's a matter of time. Should I patent the idea now? And what would you say in your message? And how emotional would that make the funeral?