Thursday, August 14, 2014

Off we go

We're off to York for a week, house-swapping. Whenever we go away, we have to organise people to come and live in our house and look after Cassie the Cat. I hope she appreciates it. Though I wouldn't like you to get the idea that we normally live in chaos and squalor, it's harder work to leave the house in a suitable state for strangers to live in (and potentially look in all your cupboards) than it is just to walk out of the door (though actually I do always bear in mind that we may experience a major event and never get home again).

As far as we can tell, Cassie is always perfectly happy to sprawl on strangers' laps as long as they are a source of heat and can administer the Dreamies.

Right. Better stop doing this and get back to giving the bathroom a final clean.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Scottish summer

On Saturday, Mr L, Daughter 2 and I walked along the beach at Portobello (at the east side of Edinburgh). It was hot. People were doing beachy things: swimming, paddling, making sandcastles ... sheltering from the stiff breezes (well, this is Scotland). Mr L took some photos.

It's been such a lovely summer.

See these Australians who want the summer back? we thought. Well, they can't have it yet. It's ours.

We continued thinking this while eating cake in The Beach House.

Then from Sunday onwards: rain and a chilly wind. I'm wearing a cardigan for the first time in months.

Cassie the Cat is not amused.

(Thanks for the quilty advice, quilting experts. I also enjoyed the non-quilty comments.)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Calling proper quilters

All right, quilty experts: I  have a question. As you see, I have more or less finished hand-quilting my little cot quilt. Boldly - because I am that sort of wild, adventurous person - I didn't quilt it as per the pattern (all straight lines) but instead quilted different sizes of hearts and stars on it - and quite a lot of straight lines. Then maintaining this iconoclastic attitude, I decided to substitute wavy lines (below) for the suggested straight lines on the border.

Now for the question. Would it be completely bonkers to attach the binding before doing the wavy lines? My reason for being tempted to do so is that I do not entirely trust the quarter-inchness of my quarter-inch seams, and if the binding were done first then I'd be more confident that my wavy lines would be in the middle of the border, since the border would then be the finished size.

But then I realise that this isn't what proper quilters do and despite all the evidence, I do aspire to be a sort-of-proper quilter.

I have now bought a quarter-inch foot for my machine but am still not sure that this will rein in my tendency to be slightly inaccurate.

Any advice would be welcome.

Friday, August 08, 2014


Mr Life, Daughter 2 and I were up town this afternoon and paused to listen to the band of the Central Lakes College from Minnesota, who were playing in the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street. A lady handed us a programme and we were very excited to see lots of Scandinavian names, just like in Lake Wobegon. Minnesota sounds very intriguing to us, what with Norwegian bachelor farmers, ice fishing and the Chatterbox Cafe (imagine the accent).

If you're actually from Minnesota, then Edinburgh Castle might seem more unusual to you, though we see it all the time.

While they were playing, three small children came out to the front and started dancing. A compilation from "Star Wars" wasn't the most danceable music, but they seemed to find it perfectly satisfactory.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

What's in the garden?

My computer has been going slow and the brilliant Son-in-Law 1 worked out that it's something to do with the fact that I have 21,000 photos saved on it. Oh no, I said. I can't possibly have that many. But I do. This is a totally impractical number so I must do something about this (what?). Meanwhile he and Mr L have added some memory and the computer is happy again. And I took more photos today; silly me.

Daughter 2 is up from London for over a week, which is lovely except that it'll be all the worse when she goes away again. We all had a happy time in the sandpit this afternoon. (Except Mr L, who took the opportunity for a nap.)

Many of the herbaceous plants are over for the summer but this lily -

- and this phlox - are filling the air with scent.

These Japanese anemones, though they're attempting to take over the whole garden, are so pretty at this time of year (but some of them are DOOMED - I must reassert my authority).

Agapanthus. I know it's a weed in Australia and indeed it's getting quite big and I don't think I could ever dig it out of the garden in my decrepitude, but I love it.

More lilies - what we used to call Turk's heads but I suppose this may be politically incorrect now.

And the agapanthus outside my kitchen window. I'm very proud of its enormous blossoms and fortunately I shall be long gone before it fills the entire flower bed and escapes on to the drive.

I will not burden you or my poor computer with photos of my dahlia and lupin plants, nurtured with love and then stripped bare by slugs/snails. Grrrrr.

Saturday, August 02, 2014


I went to South Queensferry yesterday to have coffee and lunch with my friend Joyce. In many ways we're quite unlike each other (though were both English teachers and met at work) but all the same, we get on well and enjoy an affectionate friendship. It made me think about compatibility - Joyce and I probably wouldn't have picked each other out on a find-a-friend website and indeed, I remember that the first time I saw her, I didn't immediately expect her to become a lasting chum. But we've now shared many years as colleagues and understand each other well in a gosh-that's-not-how-I-feel-but-I-see-what-you-mean sort of way.

I've occasionally speculated about whether Mr L and I would ever have got together if we'd resorted to internet dating, which so many young people seem to do nowadays. We share interests in music, history and ... well, reading, but not the same sorts of books on the whole. We like walking, as long as it's not too energetic. We're fairly cautious and not argumentative and we agree on most things. And we're nice people! But he likes steam trains and cars and engines in general whereas I have no interest in these beyond liking to be conveyed where I'm going. I like gardening and antiques and houses.

On the whole I think it's just as well that I fell for his thick shiny black hair, big blue eyes and kind smile. Shallow, yes. But it seems to have worked.

How about you? How important are/were shared interests for you and your significant other?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Granny Smith

There were lots of tourists at the Botanics yesterday and I was intrigued to see that this new feature appeared to be attracting far more attention than any of the rare plants or even the beautiful herbaceous border, which my ghost plans to haunt (benignly) when I'm deceased. It's a wildflower - not really meadow, just a very large, oval flowerbed. Earlier in the summer, there were more poppies - it's been created to mark the centenary of the start of World War 1 - but now it's mainly blue cornflowers and what I think might be corn marigolds and chamomile. It's very pretty, anyway and was much-photographed by many visitors.

I've been typing out my aunt's memories, as dictated to me on our recent Norfolk holiday, and it's been making me think about my grandmother, whom I never really knew. I knew my other grandmother well but as I've previously mentioned, this one left Edinburgh, with my aunt, in 1955 (I think) when I was five. They lived in Cheltenham and then Cambridge and we saw them only every few years.  I asked my aunt what Granny was interested in and she didn't know. Just her family, she thought.

Which seems most unlikely to me, but clearly my aunt hadn't ever really thought about  it and neither had I up till that point. I looked at the family tree that my father spent his retirement compiling, and noticed that Granny's mother had died when Granny was 18. There had been 11 children in the family, though 2 had died in infancy. Another died in 1915, presumably in the war (and I'd never even heard of him). Granny was the third youngest, so things must have been hard when her mother died.

She and my grandfather were married for 10 years before they had children and then they had three within five years (which is odd) so that they were quite old parents - 35 and 45. My father, their eldest child, was in the army for 6 years during the war, which must - now I come to think of it - have been terrible for her. My grandfather died in 1950. And then in the early 1950s, one of her daughters suddenly married someone she hardly knew and went off to be a missionary doctor in Pakistan - home only every 5 years - and the other decided to go down south. So Granny had the choice of living alone near her son and two grandchildren (my brother and me - our house was too small to have her living with us and I don't think my parents would have wanted this anyway) but being parted from her other (unmarried) daughter, or going down south with this daughter. She chose the latter but very soon developed dementia, in her early 70s.

And really it's taken me 64 years to think what it all must have been like for her. Fairly traumatic from time to time, I suppose. Poor Granny.