Tuesday, September 01, 2015

What can be done in gardens

This now seems like a long time ago, but while we were in Kent we went to Sissinghurst, the home of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville West. We'd been there before and I was keen to return and to walk again through the glorious gardens.
This, above, is the view from the tower where Vita S W wrote her novels and gardening articles. Sissinghurst was rebuilt in 15-something but was largely in ruins by the time the Nicolsons bought it in the 1930s. Bits remain, including the tower (obviously).
It's easy to fantasise that if we all lived in a wonderful place, we might achieve amazing things... but she didn't just sit in her tower gazing out like Rapunzel: she wrote a whole lot of stuff and created the beautiful gardens. I imagine they had help; but Vita and Harold completely transformed the gardens and were influential in garden design: he in the planning of garden "rooms" and she in the choice of plants.
Here is the tower, with Daughter 2 providing a splash of colour in the middle ground.

And here she is again, somewhat disturbing the monochrome effect of the famous white garden (but Daughter 2 improves any scene, in the opinion of her doting mother).

If only I had a big pot like this, a nice paved circle to put it in and no slugs.

I don't terribly go for hot colours in a garden but this was cheerfully bright even without my family's coats.

And then we came home to get our fix of the grandchildren. Above, Grandson draws road layouts round the side of our, less impressive, establishment.

Me: Is that round thing a roundabout?
Him: No, it doesn't have any exits. It's just a wiggly road.

Silly me.

And Granddaughter played in the sandpit. To each his / her own.

And then we had Thimbleanna to stay!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

We're back

We have been away, housesitting in Kent. Also catsitting. Here's Tubby, who is very furry and purry and friendly and also somewhat well-covered.

And this is MC, a multicoloured lady cat, also very sociable.

And finally Whiskey, a tail with a cat attached. He decided in the end that we were all right, but doubted our motivation for a while.
It was so nice being cat servants again.

The house was part of a very grand establishment,

 near lovely beaches.

So we had a pleasant time and then after a while Daughter 2 came over from London, and she makes a good holiday even better.

We went to the Margate Turner Contemporary Art Gallery, somewhat of a blot on the landscape in our opinion but with a good cafĂ©. It also had a Grayson Perry exhibition, which Daughter 2 and I found very interesting and Mr Life really didn't.

Since we came home on Tuesday I've been extremely busy with various essential activities and then tomorrow, a very special bloggy friend arrives in Edinburgh: Thimbleanna from middle America! This is the third time we've met now and I'm really looking forward to it.

Must get on...

Friday, August 14, 2015

Such excitement

Well, it's been a busy old time. Grandson and I had a trip on a tram.

My brother and his wife were here for the week. Son and his beard came down to meet up with us for lunch. We were having a nicer time than you might imagine from my brother's and SIL's expressions. My phone cogitates for a while before actually taking the photo, by which time smiles have sometimes slipped (and grandchildren tend to be several yards away).

Another day, while Daughter 1 and Son-in-Law 1 were making a Very Important Decision, we took the grandbabies to a play park and the beach.

The beach bit was somewhat unplanned so we didn't have their buckets and spades with us, but they had a happy time playing with the sand, shells and bits of twig. A lesson for us all.

While we were on the beach, Daughter 1 and her husband made an offer for a house and later on that day, they heard that this had been accepted. Hooray! Even better, the date settled on is the same date that they'd agreed to vacate their present house to their buyers. (Also, the same date as Son and his wife are moving to their new house. What are the chances of that?) Mr L was especially delighted, since this means that they won't have to move in with us while searching for/waiting to get into a house. It's not that he doesn't love his grandchildren. It's just that his small-child stamina is not quite what it was.

Life has not been entirely kind to Daughter 1 and her husband in the last few years, so I hope this is the start of better things for them. They deserve it.

My face, by the way, is amazingly better. I would never have thought that it would heal so fast. It looks and feels more or less normal - even though not much more than a week ago, small children were still pointing at me, aghast, in the street. And my hand is pretty good too. The human body has great powers of recovery (sometimes). Thank you for your good wishes.

And now I must get on. More visitors arrive tomorrow.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Progress report

Thank you for your kind comments about my accident. This is my hand and wrist. My face is considerably worse. However, considering that it's a bit less than a week since I did it, I'm a bit better than I thought I would be. Or possibly I'm just getting used to it. Currently the skin is peeling off the affected part of my face - the entire right side - which I suppose is a good thing because the scalded skin was never going to be much use. Unfortunately the new skin is rather red and raw as well. However, I'm sure time will improve it somewhat. Fortunately I wasn't expecting to base my future happiness on my dazzling beauty.

The grandchildren seem to have become entirely accustomed to the new, red and cracked Granny, so maybe I don't look so different after all... . Granddaughter, to add to our joys, fell most of the way downstairs in her house today and had to have a trip to the Sick Children's Hospital. Luckily her main injury seems to be a carpet burn on her chin. Neither of us is therefore looking her best.

These things don't really come in threes, do they?

Tuesday, August 04, 2015


Our weekend was... mixed. On Saturday, we walked along to one of the modern art galleries, where we had coffee and then visited the M C Escher exhibition, which was wonderful. I'm not wild about surreal images - too nightmarish - so didn't really expect to like it much, but in fact I really loved it. His drawing, seen up close and full-sized rather than in small reproductions, is really beautiful - fantastically detailed - and much of his earlier work isn't surreal at all. Though in fact I really liked the stranger pictures too, once I saw them close to.

Then we walked...
 ... back along...
 ... the river...

saying hello to the heron (can you see him in the middle of the photo?)...

... and back out into the real world, fifty yards away from the heron in his quiet lair.

So that was all lovely.

Then on Sunday, in the church hall, I was carrying a newly-filled, catering-sized teapot, and tripped. As I fell, the lid came off and the tea splashed all down the right side of my face and on my right hand.

Kind friends brought ice from the freezer and Mr L took me to Accident and Emergency (which was well staffed with kind nurses and doctors, despite what you might think from Jeremy Hunt's remarks). After three and a half hours of lying holding ice to my face and hand, I was allowed home. Because of the ice, I have what the doctor said amounts to bad sunburn - superficial burning rather than anything deeper. I have one blister, on the tip of my nose (so fetching), which I hadn't noticed so hadn't particularly been holding ice against it. This is now quite raw but the rest of my face, though not exactly scenic, looks more as if someone had been punching me (quite hard) rather than as if it had been scalded. It's a bit swollen and a bit scarlet and tender, but that's all.

It could have been so much worse. I could have scalded someone else as well - thank goodness I didn't. I must have shut my eyes as I fell, because though the skin all round my right eye is affected, my eye itself is fine. And there could have been no ice, which relieved the quite considerable pain and took the heat out of my skin.

It could also have been better, however, if I had been more careful. I'm still feeling a bit shaky when I remember the moment that the almost-boiling water hit my face and I thought, oh dear, I've done something really serious here.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Two little angels

These pictures are mainly for Nanny in Worcester, who is now retired (hurray!) and has lots of time to look at pictures of the little ones. Of course, as you can see in these photos, the two of them are entirely angelic and never naughty at all.

Here they are being good in the Botanics...

 ... and, still in the Botanics, looking sweetly at the wildflower meadow...

... and here is Granddaughter playing in the sandpit...

... and being completely jolly.

Grandson lies on the rug, being no trouble at all.

They're like that all the time. Well, most of the time. Ok, Granddaughter's favourite word is "No!" But we love her anyway.

The other day I was putting her socks on her, prior to her going home (Grandson was staying the night with us). "No," she said firmly, taking them off. I put them on again. She looked very disapproving but grudgingly left them on and allowed me to put her shoes on too. Much later I realised that they were actually Grandson's socks. Fair enough, little L. But if you say "No" all the time, what can you expect? Remind me to tell you about the boy who cried wolf.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


The other day, Grandson took a toy that his sister was holding out and gave her a different one. Then he said to her, "This is a quid pro quo."
Daughter 1, startled, said to him, "Do you know what that means?"
And he said, "Yes, it's when someone gives something to you and you find something for them."
I recount this not to suggest that he's a genius but partly because it made us laugh and partly to marvel at the way children - all children - learn language. None of us can remember using this phrase in his presence, but someone must have, and he remembered it just like any other phrase that comes his way. Children have this amazing capacity to learn words, whether it be a little snatch of Latin or a bit of equally difficult English: it's all language to them.
I often thought, when teaching, how impressive it was that even students with moderate learning difficulties could chat away to each other with fluency - and yet it's so difficult to learn a foreign language when you're older and have only an hour or two a week to spend on it. Sit on a bus and listen to a language with which you're unfamiliar - Finnish or Mandarin - and you can't even make out where one word ends and the next begins. And yet, within a couple of years, children are saying everything they need to.

Son visited today. Granddaughter wouldn't come to him for a cuddle at first. "Who is this bearded stranger?" she enquired. Well, she didn't. But you could see her thinking it.

We had just had a plumber to the house, who, in the manner of all plumbers, disapproved of the way the previous chap had tried to fix the blockage in the pipe to a bedroom radiator. Son listened to our tale of their conflicting diagnoses and remedies and nodded. "Much like GPs," he said.