Thursday, July 30, 2009


I was in town today and thought you might like to see some pictures of Edinburgh. Just to let you imagine the layout if you don't know it: there's an ancient castle on a rock, and at its foot on the north side are gardens and then the main street, Princes Street - with shops on one side and those gardens on the other. The street in the photo above is North Bridge, which is literally a bridge over streets below it; North Bridge is at right angles to the east end of Princes Street. The big building in the centre of this picture is the Balmoral Hotel, which when I was young (and for years before that) was called the North British Hotel - a relic of the time when Scotland was sometimes known as North Britain*. The Balmoral is at the luxury end of the Edinburgh's hotel accommodation.

* Note from Mr Life:
You've missed out a step re the naming of the hotel. This is where you needed to consult a railway historian. The hotel is named after the North British Railway company who originally built it to serve their passengers. The railway was named because it operated in what the Victorians called "North Britain" - or at least the south eastern corner thereof. The hotel continued to be called the NB whilst "railway" owned and became "The Balmoral" when it became de-nationalised like the railways. Thought that you would want to know this!

(I did kind of know this. We'll get him doing his own blog at this rate. What could he call it? Between the Tracks? Along the Lines?)

This is taken peering over the Bridge to the east. The smudgy thing in the foreground isn't a river but just the top of the wall; I'm only 5'3" or possibly less and couldn't reach high enough to avoid it. The photo shows one of Edinburgh's seven hills, Calton Hill.

The Balmoral again. Note that it wasn't raining. Yet.

The Bridge wall wasn't so high at this point. There's the Castle in the distance, on the far right.

That smudgy wall again as we look west over to Princes Street with the Scott Monument (for Sir Walter Scott) in the middle, a bit like the Eiffel Tower but much smaller, and some horrible 60s architecture to the right.

And looking east from the Bridge - this is a terrible photo, looking into the sun, but I wanted to show you our main city hill, Arthur's Seat. It's really quite near, though it doesn't look it here.

Now I've walked down into Princes Street. Here's the Castle on the skyline, the art galleries looking like Greek temples below it to the right, the Assembly Hall (belonging to the Church of Scotland) with that towerish thing to the left.

The Bank of Scotland on the left. We used to be proud of it but... hmm... . I should have taken a picture of the hotel that Daughter 2 has been working on - but I didn't. Silly me. It's just to the left of the Bank.

Now things deteriorate. Edinburgh City Council have decided to install tramlines and the city is a mass of holes. Here's our principal shopping street, elegantly presented for the tourists. (The trams are scheduled for 2012. "I'll never see them," says my mum. I bet she will.) Castle in background.

More updiggings as I wander along.

So scenic. At least there's no traffic.

A hole. Not a lot happening.

Still I wander along Princes Street. Still nothing much happens to the holes.

There's an art gallery (like temple). The street going up the the Assembly Hall is called the Mound, because it was made from a mound of earth accumulated from digging out the swampy bit to make the gardens. Or so they say. Look, a chap in a safety vest, walking.

Another chap, walking in the opposite direction. It's still not raining.

A chap contemplating.

Several men standing around, one leaning on a spade. 2012, did you say? 2020, maybe?

The Castle looks lovely but the traffic cones really don't.

I turned my back on Princes Street and the Castle and walked uphill to the parallel street, George Street. Standing there, looking down towards Queen Street and beyond, you're aware of how near we are to the sea. You can see the coast of Fife on the other side of the Forth estuary.

Then I went to have my eyes tested (they seem to be ok; no need for specs yet apart from my £7 supermarket ones for small print) and got the bus home. It had rained a bit but the sun had come out by the time I got into the front garden. These roses smell wonderful.

And raindrops on roses always improve them. Well, they do until they turn them into a soggy mess. But the sun's out again now. And I'm off to have coffee with a friend.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mr Life's photos of Devon and Cornwall including the Cobb and also quite a lot of transport-related items. Also wildlife and lunch.

Mr Life speaks

A guest post! Wow! What an honour.

Umm, what to say?

“Just make it mainly pictures,” says Daughter 2.

Would that be all 400 then? Maybe not.

Maybe not even all of my 86 selected photos highlighting what we did and saw?

Highlights of the highlights then!

Launceston Steam Railway – both steam and narrow gauge, so the best kind, of course.

Falmouth – where we “parked and floated”. Many towns have “park and ride” facilities – car parks on the outskirts with buses to run people into town – but this had a ferry instead.

One of Pencarrow House’s peacocks.

St Ives harbour with the tide out.

Isabelle’s picture doesn’t show off the Bodmin & Wenford locomotive in all its glory because it’s hidden by some fat chap.

Padstow harbour with the tide in, too many people around and the rain about to start.

I like cats as well! This one looks after the garden at Castle Drogo –

and some garden it is, too!

The church in Colyton, the nearest village to our Devon cottage.

Seaton Tramway at Colyton – this is a replica of a Glasgow tram.

Lyme Regis harbour and the Cobb.

The Cobb again. Think of Jane Austen’s Louisa Musgrove and the French Lieutenant’s woman. It was a trifle breezy.

Beer Heights Light Railway at Pecorama, Beer. A miniature railway based on my favourite narrow gauge railways.

The stream flowing down the main street in Beer – water, not beer, but pretty flowers. We bought a very expensive painting in a gallery just left of this stream.

One of Sidmouth town council’s many floral displays.

The museum at Budleigh Salterton. We took so long to be served our (excellent) lunch in The Cosy Teapot that we didn’t have time to visit this museum, but admired the quaint exterior.
(Bows and walks off.)

Being a cat

If you were a cat - and if only one could choose this option, at least for a few days - would you choose this lumpy UPVC door sill to sleep on, like Cassie?

Or would you prefer a cushion, like Sirius?
Back later with a guest post from Mr Life, featuring among other delights the Cobb at Lyme Regis.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A little blog adventure

You would think that a teacher on holiday would have lots of time to post fascinating items and to read others’ equally fascinating posts, but the trouble is that holidays are the times when teachers catch up with their social lives, so that’s part of what I’ve been doing this week. The other parts have been viewing flats with Daughter 2 - who’s considering buying one (very exciting and stressful) - and not doing some (but not enough) housework.

Let me tell you about Tuesday. Tuesday is when I met up with Rachel of Slow Lane Life ( in Berwick, which is just over the border between Scotland and England.

As those of you who’ve done this bloggy-meeting business will know, it’s a strange and lovely experience. You start a new friendship but at the same time it’s not so new. You know things about people that their real friends may not know: not necessarily the secrets of their hearts, but what they had for dinner yesterday, the colour of their new cushions or how they feel about their next-door neighbours. And you know they like to read and write – always an indication of a noble and admirable disposition – and are friendly enough to comment on strangers’ blogs.

So I was pretty sure that Rachel would be nice as well as funny and clever (which I knew she was). And she was indeed all of these things. I had suggested that we meet up in Berwick-on-Tweed, which is kind of half-way between Edinburgh, where I live, and Newcastle, where she does. So we both got the train and set off, texting as we went. For the first time in my life I travelled first class, since there was a cheap offer. This was a very splendid and roomy experience, though I demonstrated my actual second-class nature by buying a Times newspaper at the station so that when the girl came round with a free Times for the first class passengers, I was already reading mine. Then I wasn’t quite sure if I could eat the shortbread biscuit provided on the table without being charged for it (I could) or drink the fizzy water as well as the coffee that was brought round (I could). Goodness me: I’m 59 and still looking sideways at other people to see what they’re doing so that I can copy them.

We met at the station and apart from the fact that Rachel, who claims to be 60, looks about 40 (she needs to start selling the secret) we recognised each other immediately from the photos we’d sent and set off round the town. While I’d never set foot in Berwick – only come through it on the train from London – she had actually lived there, so greatly to my advantage, I had a built-in tour guide who told me about her life in terms of various Berwick landmarks. (I also talked. Try stopping me.)

We walked round the tops of the city walls as in the photo above. I assume these were to keep out the marauding English or Scots, depending on which nation owned Berwick at the time – it was much fought over. Then we went for lunch, during which two people – granted they were mother and daughter – came over separately and exclaimed with pleasure at seeing Rachel after all this time. Then we went to a lovely shop selling pretty things, and I started my Christmas shopping. Go me!

Then, and fatally, since we had a little time before our trains, we popped into a second-hand bookshop, which resulted in our buying a few volumes (oh, how I don’t need any more books in my house!) and nearly missing our trains. We had to run (like, as Rachel accurately noted, “women who don’t really run”) with our bags of books banging elegantly against our thighs. My train was then late, so that I could have strolled. But I’m sure the run worked off my broccoli and cheese quiche, don’t you think?

This is a little Berwick street. The shop on the right announces that its proprietors are the "sole makers of the original Berwick Cockles" - little pink and white boiled sweets - but alas, it's now empty. Clearly Rachel left the town and stopped buying Cockles.

This is a house. I was too intent on our conversation to take in its name, but there was a sign nearby with a picture of it in a derelict state, and it's clearly loved now, which is nice.

A somewhat Wizard-of-Ozzie-looking lion guarding the house.

A row of houses. Great for looking into the front rooms (sorry for my nosiness, owners).
I did take other photos but they have Rachel in them and for some reason, though I did warn her I was about to take them, she's looking a bit startled so I won't post them. Take it from me that one of them showed someone's very pretty garden at the foot of the town wall, conveniently on view to the passing blogger.
Hope to see you again soon, Rachel!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some not very informative photos

Here are some more images from our week in Cornwall followed by a week in Devon. The sun shone intermittently but it wasn't quite the weather that we had ordered: the sort in which an 87-year-old sun lover (my mother) can sit contentedly in the sunshine while her daughter and son-in-law stride about and look at things. However, Mum womanfully padded around with us - not terribly fast, but covering quite a lot of ground compared to most 87-year-olds. And luckily Mr Life is a saint. Saints occasionally sigh a bit, but quietly.

Above is Lanhydrock House and its formal gardens.

Here are a few of its herbaceous borders, presided over by Mr Life.

And this, I think, is Pencarrow, another fine house. I'd check with Mr Life, who has a better grasp of geography than I have, but he's gone to bed.

Here's Mum, in a blink of sunshine. It started to rain shortly afterwards.

St Ives with lots of other people as well as my loved ones. Note the tents. Many people also had windbreaks on the beach. The British come prepared for inclement weather. Wisely.

Rather a fetching public toilet, I thought.

A St Ives street.

Mr Life is a steam train buff and here he is with one of the various engines which featured on our holiday. A man must take his pleasures where he can.

Our second week was in Devon, near Colyton: very pretty little place.

Here it is again.

Beach huts at Lyme Regis*. Mr Life took far better pictures than I did, but they're on his computer and he's asleep. The man has no stamina. Or to look at it another way, it's after midnight and he has work tomorrow. He has photos of the Cobb, which Louisa Musgrove fell off in "Persuasion" and where the French Lieutenant's Woman gazed out to sea hoping for the return of the French Lieutenant. This would have been more distinctive of Lyme than beach huts, but there we are. We work with the material we have.

The gardens at Pecorama in the small town of Beer. Pecorama is really all about miniature railways (Mr Life chose this outing) but it has rather fine gardens too, so we were all happy.

The moon garden.

The sun garden, with, appropriately, some sun.

We visited Sidmouth, which is a lovely town, but the nearby cliffs look a bit crumbly to me. I fear that this little white house wouldn't be a very good long-term investment. You might well have enjoyed seeing some photos of the nice Regency architecture or the lovely Connaught Gardens. Mr Life has some of these.

Still, here are one and a half Sidmouth houses.
One day soon I'll tell you about my outing today to meet Rachel ( of Slow Lane Life (such fun!) and the flats that Daughter 2 and I have been going to see with a view to her buying one (interesting but a bit stressful. My last chicken, flapping her wings with a view to flying the nest! )
But meanwhile I shall go and have a bath and then perhaps I might consider a nice soothing read in bed. Still three and a half weeks of summer holiday to go.
* Mr Life informs me that the beach huts were actually in Seaton. Which proves my point about the rather unspecificness of some of my photos.