Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Very strange indeed...

I have a question for you: what connects the first two pictures below...






with the picture above? 

Well, the answer is that they're all of the same room. 

Today I had the surreal experience of being invited to see the changes that the people who bought my parents' house have made. Above, you can see my parents' dining room, as it was. The new people have changed it into their kitchen, put a line of units where the fireplace was and blocked off the window, which is currently a wall with "Congratulations Daddy" adorning it. To the right, where you can't see it, they've knocked through a little passageway into the butler's pantry, and the wall between the butler's pantry and the kitchen, and made the butler's pantry's window into a glass door to light their kitchen. 

It was all very very odd indeed. It was my parents' house and yet it wasn't. 

The pictures immediately below show the sitting room as it was...








and above, as it is now. I thought the mantelpiece was rather nice before, but there we are. Tastes vary.

The new owners were happy for me to take some photos to show the family, but I didn't like to do this in any great detail, so they're not really effective as before and after photos. And the walls in the photo above are actually quite a dark mushroom colour, though they look green here (shades of the blue and black dress making headlines a few days ago).

I feel... quite stressed and a bit disorientated but ... it was very kind of the young lady to invite me. And the lovely thing is that they've given their little girl the middle name of May, which is my mum's name, because they thought that my mum was such a sweet old lady. (They might not have, I realise, if her name had been something horrible. But still. I wish I could tell Mum!)

The British Mother's Day is coming in a couple of weeks and the shops are making the most of this marketing opportunity. It's quite hard when you no longer have a mother and you keep being reminded of this fact. But of course this must be a very common experience.

Ah well. Such is life.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The week


On Sunday, Grandson played with his road signs and cars, using the entire sitting room carpet for this purpose, as usual.


On Tuesday I went to my piano lesson. This is the view from the bus stop - Edinburgh Castle behind a graveyard and trees.


On Thursday the grandchildren came again. Isn't Granddaughter getting girl-like rather than baby-like?


She and Grandpa enjoyed "Ivor the Engine".


Grandson smiled nicely for the camera but by the time I actually took the picture, he was yearning to get back to his car layout.


It's spring. I do like being able to pick a little vaseful from the garden.


And later on Thursday, Daughter 2 came home for a long weekend, which always improves any week. I don't know why Mr L looks so red. He isn't really.

On Thursday evening the three of us watched "What We Did On Our Holiday" - a really enjoyable film, we thought. It was set mainly in the Highlands of Scotland, which are so lovely (and in another life I would live there among the hills and empty beaches) and stars David Tennant (who's always good), Rosamund Pike (ditto, also very beautiful) and Billy Connolly (of whom I'm not a huge fan but actually he was rather effective) - and some children, who were excellent. The film is funny but also surprising - it's slightly oh no! in the middle but fine in the end. I've just read a review which calls it "supremely modest", which I think is a good description. It made me smile a lot and it wouldn't really happen but then again... it just might.

And that was the week so far.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Walking


It's been a busy week, though with quite what, I can't remember. But on Thursday we took the grandchildren for a walk along the shore.


Grandson rode his balance bike.


Or that was the idea. After a while, he decided to walk along the wall instead. We've all been there: carrying the bike that the child was supposed to be riding. Still, he enjoyed himself, which was the main point.


Then on Saturday we went to Earlston in the Borders with the walking group. It was another glorious day of sunshine.


 The route was quite hilly in parts - oh, how good for the thighs.



We came to a lightly wooded area which was carpeted with snowdrops.



 It did the soul good to look at them.


The sun kept shining as we walked on.


We passed a scruffy old mill which had a stone engraved "Rhymers Mill 1772".

Then we all went and had coffee in Rhymers Tower Coffee Shop in the village. Behind it is the ruined Rhymers Tower, where Thomas the Rhymer, a 13th century bard, lived. Many of his rhymes were prophetic and some (apparently) came true. He got his gifts from the beautiful young Queen of the Fairies, who came riding past and persuaded him to go off with her for seven years. He came back wearing green and carrying a special harp.

Or so the story goes.

We had a lovely day, anyway. Chatting makes the miles zip by.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Boyhood


The boy adores his cars, traffic signs and road layouts. He plays with them for hours. Our son also liked toy cars a lot (I think he still likes cars, but he now has a full-sized one of his own) but his road mat was the one thing he didn't play with much.


Last night we watched the film "Boyhood". I'm not much of a one for films - they involve sitting still for longer than I usually feel like doing and they're often rather harrowing - but I found this one compelling. If you haven't watched it, I recommend it. In my old age I can't cope - or am perhaps unwilling to cope - with books or films involving much sadness or violence. However this, while not being a jolly romp, doesn't dwell long on the sad or frightening sides of life, though difficult things to appear from time to time, as in all our lives.

I thought the most fascinating part of it was just seeing the boy actor and his sister transform from 8 to 18, almost like a time-lapse film of a flower opening. The story, though interesting enough, was secondary as far as I was concerned. I can remember sitting with my little boy on my knee and finding it very hard to imagine that he would grow up to be a big man. But he did.

And Grandson will too, though this is equally hard to imagine. I hope life is kind to him.

One of the most touching moments of the film for me was when the mother is about to see her son, her younger child, off to university, and she wails something like, "I thought there would be more!" Just shortly beforehand, she'd been rejoicing in her imminent freedom to do things for herself at last; and yet, and yet... .

It must have been a huge risk to make this film. What if the actor playing a major character had died or simply been unwilling to continue? I suppose the story would have had to accommodate this. But what if the child actors hadn't been good enough to carry off the scenes of their older lives? Fortunately, they were. I haven't seen any other of the Oscar-nominated films but I hope that "Boyhood" wins, for sheer originality and courage apart from anything else.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sunny


It's been lovely weather here. It was sunny when we had coffee in John Lewis yesterday.


It was still sunny as we drove up to have lunch with Son today.


The sun shone on Gloagburn Farm as we ate.


We then climbed Moncreiffe Hill, where there are Pictish hill forts. This isn't one. It's just some posts which have been placed at the foot of the hill to give one a Pictish feeling as one reads the information boards.


Son posed Pictishly, though didn't actually cover himself with paint, which miight have been more authentic (or might not).


This, apparently, is the site of a Pictish hill fort from the Late Iron Age or Early Mediaeval period. You get views in all directions so could see the enemy approaching, though we weren't quite sure what you'd do about it. There didn't seem anywhere much to hide.


But everything looked very peaceful today.


I've now sewn my tumblers together in rows and - since taking the picture - have joined three rows together. There was a tiny bit of unpicking involved, but not too much. I know it's all very simple but it's quite satisfying. Maybe I'll try something more complicated next time (or maybe I won't).

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Wonderfulness


The other grandparents are in Edinburgh for the weekend and we all met at Daughter 1's for lunch. Grandson really LOVES his traffic layouts and yes, those are bows in his hair. They belong to Granddaughter and he just fancied wearing them for a bit. And why not?



Granddaughter has a cold (again) and is teething - hence the red cheeks - but she was very jolly as usual. What a wonderful age nearly-2 is. (Most of the time.)


Snowdrops in the garden.


And crocuses. We're coming to get you, Spring!

And the new Anne Tyler is out, yippee. She's my favourite novelist; I love her beautifully-structured stories of slightly odd people (aren't we all?) and the words in which she describes the twists and turns of their lives. I read somewhere that this is to be her last novel, which is a sad thought, but I suppose she deserves a bit of retirement like the rest of us. I'm very much looking forward to reading it. Currently I'm reading "At Home" by Bill Bryson, which is about houses (and lots else) and is really interesting. I'm going to have to read it again, though. It's too nice an edition to read in the bath (lots of pictures) so I've been consuming it in bits, which means that I lose the thread somewhat. In the bath (and therefore also in bed) I've been rereading Thurber's letters - he was a fascinating chap, though again slightly odd  - and for the book group, Peter May's "Entry Island", which seemed to me somewhat pifflish. Some piffle is fine, if it doesn't aspire to being anything else but well-written fluff, but this combined some seriousness with (I thought) a ridiculous plot. The sense of place came across well (Skye and islands off Canada) but an ancestor's diary entries were remembered word-for-word from his childhood by the main character - improbable. In one of these, a girl during the Highland Clearances brought a "quiche" for her chap, who was in hiding. Granted, I wasn't in Skye in the mid-nineteenth century but I seriously doubt if actual quiches, by that name, featured largely in the diet. And there were A LOT of what a lecturer of mine, who couldn't pronounce his "r"s, used to call crude coincidences (cccchhhhude coincidences) - a phrase which has stayed with me. He was talking about the novels of E M Forster, which are also packed with such coincidences. I haven't been able to reread Forster since he pointed this out in 1971. I don't think I've missed much but he was better than Peter May, I feel.

Most of my book group liked "Entry Island" a lot, though, so it's all a matter of opinion.

I'm sitting here listening to the sixth movement of Brahms' Requiem on Cyberbass as I write, in the attempt to get it into my head because we're singing the Requiem at my Sunday choir. It's quite distracting. I should give it my full attention because it's also hard. And amazingly wonderful.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Holes


Grandson and I went to the Botanics the other day. We went into the greenhouses for the first time, which he found interesting, especially since one of them has an aquarium section. He particularly liked the little neon fish.


Then we walked round the gardens as usual and looked at the waterfalls and his favourite tree, Number 17 Tree (as he calls it, after his own house, also number 17). We fed the squirrels and the pigeons on sunflower seeds and the ducks on special duck food provided by Son. Oh, what fun it is to wander around with him and have lots of chats.

Can you see where the grass is dug up on the left? That's the work of the badgers which live in the garden and come out at night after all those pesky visitors have gone away. They've made a real mess in various areas. I didn't know about them till there was a recent article about them in the paper. There are about five setts in the gardens and badgers keep digging up the crocus bulbs and eating them. How very trying. We get badgers around here too but they've never done much damage to the garden.

The other evening I looked out of a front window and saw three foxes proceeding across the lawn towards the side of the house. Then I looked out of the back and there they were in the back garden, having presumably squeezed through the rather small cat-hole we cut in the side gate. The temptation to feed them is quite strong - it was cold and they were no doubt looking for food - but it wouldn't be sensible. I always think how strange it is that we invite certain animals into our houses and pamper them, while outside, most of wildlife just gets on with things with little assistance from anyone.

We're still missing our cats a lot. We were fine before we had them but now we've had them and lost them, there seems like a big hole in our lives. A bit like having children. Ah well. There are snowdrops and crocuses in the garden. Spring is on the way. Slowly.