Thursday, 31 January 2008


Still waiting ... so nothing for it but to sort through some photographs. This photo* was emailed to me this week by Alice who lives in Vancouver. Wow! Look at that white stuff!

And looking for another photo completely, (of Alice and I in VOC days at UBC) I ran across this one: me at Larch Hills, Salmon Arm, 1984, in the days when cross-country skiing was just becoming established in British Columbia. I must have been home for Christmas - don't know who took the photo.


* used with permission. Under copyright.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008


Still waiting in the wings!!! So, nothing for it but might as well hang out with some fiddlers.

Amy Corfield is 16 and going places. She was telling me about her band called MAK at Celtic Connections. Last week they played in Danny Kyle's Open Stage event which is in the form of a competition for all-comers.

About seven years ago this little sparkler melted all our hearts when she stool on the stage and played her solo, Ashokan Farewell. You could have heard a pin drop!

Jay Unger talks about how this tune that he wrote always brings him to tears. Amy said that, after a trip to Canada to see her Auntie, she was asked to play it so much she really was getting sick of it! That happens!

Amy has been playing the fiddle with the Bearsden Young Fiddlers since she was 10 years old. (You have to be Grade 3 or above to play in this Junior section of the Bearsden Fiddlers; both orchestras play Scottish fiddle music.) Now the leader of the Young Fiddlers, she offers to play solo performances and has made two albums, kindly donating the profits to charity.

Here she is (last year) busking in Buchanan Street. She had been playing all afternoon with Keegan and Marissa.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008


A Sunday walk turns into a photo-opportunity when one is waiting ...

Do horses like horse blankets?

Lovely weather for ducks and dogs ... especially at this ford on the road from Baldernock to Milngavie.

Monday, 28 January 2008


What does one do while waiting? Go for a walk? Smell the flowers?

Out for a walk yesterday – out the front door, down to the River Allander, along to Allander Toll and back by Baldernock – we came across the first snowdrops on the roadside. The best flower in the whole calendar year!

Snowdrops, or to give them their correct genus name, Galanthus, do really, really well in this climate. G. nivalis – is considered the 'common' snowdrop which I think these are. Snowdrops are not native to Britain but were introduced in the 17th Century having made their way north through Europe from Italy.

There are other lovely, more interesting, snowdrops such as G. plicatus (from the Crimea), G. elwesli (from Turkey) and G. woronowli (from the Caucaus region).

This year Visit Scotland people have organised a Snowdrop Festival. Lots of places – castles, big hooses, parks – are going to be open to the public to visit. As these little bulbs spread each year, and because many were planted a long time ago, there are places where there are literally thousands of them along roadsides, banks or under avenues of trees winding up through old estates.

When the snowdrops flower, can spring be far behind?

Sunday, 27 January 2008


Thirty-nine weeks and counting ....

Wee Ishie is waiting with the rest of us to see if she is going to have a new baby sister or baby brother.!

Mairi is now 39 weeks pregnant and her Expected Date of Confinement is February 1st (end of this coming week). Dad, John, is gearing up for the event wondering if this baby is going to be 6 days early like their first one!

As we, especially those of us who sail, know:

Nae man can tether time or tide *

* from Tam O'Shanter. (To finish the couplet [when] ... "the hour approaches and Tam must ride.")

Saturday, 26 January 2008


Robert Burns' Tam O'Shanter lines 59 and 60 –

"... But pleasures are like poppies spread;
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed ...."

Friday, 25 January 2008


It is January 25th, the birthday of Burns (born 1759 in Alloway, Scotland). A quick nod in Burns' direction before heading out the door to a Supper (or a least a Modified Supper) at Professor Sir William and Lady C's abode.

Galloway farmland taken in October on the way back from the Wigton Book Festival

Bill, who knows his Burns probably doesn't know 'the other one'. So for the record, here it is (given to me several years ago by another Kate, who is presently busy at Celtic Connections),

The original poem, Tam O'Shanter is a long tale, in verse, which Iain knows off by heart. Tam, somewhat fond of the drink, especially on market day has a story and excuses for his wife, Kate, who is at home "nursing her wrath to keep it warm"! In the tale he heads home, much the worse for wear, and he thinks his poor horse, Meg (who has had her tail clipped by some of the lads at Ayr) has been caught by witches "An left poor Maggie scarce a stump").

Meanwhile ... is Kate, at home where she "in vain ... awaits thy comin"???


And where, do you suppose, was Kate
When market days were wearing late
While Tam frequented wretched dives
And fooled around with landlord wives
And rode poor Meg through mud and ditches
And had an eye for handsome witches,
Played Peeping Tom at Alloway
And yelled, and gave himself away
And fled from there, amid the din
And Maggie barely saved his skin???

Not where you think!

Kate slaved away, the livelong day-
They had so many bills to pay.
The twins just had to have new shoes
And Tammie spent so much on booze.
She bathed and clothed and fed the twins,
She bakes the bread, she knits and spins,
She does the wash, she mends and clothes,
And what all else, God only knows!
She keeps the house all neat and trim,
And makes a lunch for ploughboy Jim -
A neighbour lad, they hire by day,
Who does Tam's work, while Tam's away.

She herds the sheep and cattle, too
Feeds hens, milks cows, and when that's through
Makes cheese and butter, gathers eggs-
For Tam to sell on market day
And drink the proceeds half away!
In harvest time, from early morn,
Her sickle reaps the oats and corn,
And many a sunny, summer day
She and ploughboy Jim make hay.

Photo of gravestone was taken in the cemetery at Dalbeattie at 3pm, mid October, 2007

Thursday, 24 January 2008


Wee Ishbel is now one year old. She is still such a happy, cheery little person and just loves to "chat" ... babbles away to herself all the time.

She takes after her great-grandmother, my mother, who – when she was supposed to be using a wheelchair after knee surgery – used it to load up and transport up bags of sugar in preparation to can apricots!

Here is wee Ishie with her Toddlers Truck loaded with bags of sugar, today, as I prepare to make marmalade.

... as the little chick said "Look at the orange mumalade!"

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


A most enjoyable read is Katherine Whitehorn's autobiography "Selective Memory" published by Virago, 2007. (Full details on Amazon here.)

She talks about her life as a journalist and the world of British magazines, newspapers and books. The period is the late 50s and onwards. She currently writes as an Agony Aunt in Saga magazine.

Her husband of 45 years, the author Gavin Lyall, died in 2003. She states:

"Losing your husband has two separate aspects: there's missing the actual man, your lover; his quirks, his kindness, his thinking. But marriage is also the water in which you swim, the land you live in: the habits, the assumptions you share about the future, about what's funny or deplorable, about the way the house is run – or should be; what Anthony Burgess called a whole civilisation, a culture, 'a shared language of grunt and touch'. You don't 'get over' the man, though you do after a year or two get over the death; but you have to learn to live in another country in which you're an unwilling refugee." [p. 263].

There is an interview on BBC Woman's Hour here.

She is going to be at the Mitchell Library in March for the Aye Write Book Festival.


Photo: Arran by C. Reeves

Tuesday, 22 January 2008


If you are of a certain age, this fella will still make your heart flip! This photo (Anon-Internet) and the little story were sent to me by Jane in British Columbia. I laughed and laughed – the story is "just me"! The last paragraph shows why.

An American woman and her family were vacationing in a small New England town where Paul Newman and his family often visited. One Sunday morning, the woman got up early to take a long walk.

After a brisk five-mile hike, she decided to treat herself to a chocolate ice cream cone. She hopped in the car, drove to the center of the village and went straight to the combination bakery/ice cream parlor. There was only one other patron in the store – Paul Newman, sitting at the counter having a doughnut and coffee.

The woman's heart skipped a beat as her eyes made contact with those famous baby-blue eyes. The actor nodded graciously and the star-struck woman smiled demurely. "Pull yourself together!" she chides herself. "You're a happily married woman with three children! You're forty-five years old, not a teenager! " The clerk filled her order and she took the ice cream cone in one hand and her change in the other. Then she went out the door, avoiding even a glance in Paul Newman's direction.

When she reached her car, she realized that she had a handful of change but her other hand was empty. "Where's my ice cream cone? Did I leave it in the store?" Back into the shop she went, expecting to see the cone still in the clerk's hand or in a holder on the counter or something. No ice cream cone was in sight! With that, she happened to look over at Paul Newman. His face broke into his familiar warm friendly grin and he said to the woman, "You put it in your purse!"

Years ago when the children were young I drove out of the Bearsden Post Office car park with them in the back seat of the car. Cars kept flashing their lights at me. "Cheeky so-and-so's", I thought! Finally one driver coming towards me put his arm out the window and pointed up to the roof of his car. "Look Lady! Roof of your car, Stoopid!" I stopped, got out, and found my handbag ... still there where I'd placed it!

Monday, 21 January 2008


I really like this photograph that I took on Christmas Eve. It is 3 pm at Tannoch Loch in Milngavie. The sun was just about to disappear, i.e. heading for twilight time.

What interested me was the idea of illustrating a boundary or, more specifically, a border – the edge of the ice on the loch where the birds were gathered. Thus the birds are "living on the edge".

The notion of "borders" is about being in that 'grey area'. They are identifiable: physical (border cities like Trieste, Tijuana), social (that area between decency and indecency; or possibly people who live in the margins of society, e.g. immigrants) and mental (the area between sanity and insanity; people with gender dysphoria) ... anywhere where it is a "twilight zone", neither one thing nor the other.

When exploring the subject on the web I came across this website. The Times states ""If you think the web is full of trivial rubbish, you will find the intellectual badinage of to be a blessed counterpoint." And the good ol' Scotsman states: "Praised by everyone from the Guardian, Prospect magazine, Wired, the New York Times and BBC Radio 4, Edge is an online collective of deep thinkers. Their contributors aren't on the frontier, they are the frontier."

Well, well! If you hear the noise of crumbling it is me pushing out the frontiers!

Thursday, 17 January 2008


Winter sunshine and 'weather' ... watching the light change ...

Pale light, grey light ...... ice and snow

Seldom-seen sunshine ... weak and wintery

These are John's photos taken recently in the Scottish mountains. See them all here.


New Year's Day in Scotland is January 1st. However, some years ago (1960s) I recall an elderly lady who lived in the north of Scotland (Gairloch, Wester Ross) telling me about going around the houses with a pillowcase asking for sweeties at the "Auld New Year", i.e. a fortnight after the January 1st date.

When looking into this, I found people who did not know this custom and stated that it, therefore, could not have been the case.

However, when nothing showed up on Google I asked Iseabail – our walking dictionay – and all is made clear.

January 1st officially became the first day of a new year in 46 B.C. when Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar, i.e. decreeing that the New Year should start on 1 January.

In 1582, the Gregorian calendar was introduced, and Roman Catholic countries began to celebrate New Year's Day on January 1. This calendar heralded a slow but gradual introduction, Scotland in 1600; Germany, Denmark and Sweden about 1700; then Britain and its colonies in 1752.

The Gregorian calendar is the one commonly used today. However, in outlying areas (like the north of Scotland) they continued to celebrate New Year using the Julian calendar.

The reason I couldn't find information about this custom is because the word "Auld New Year" doesn't appear to be used anymore. However once Iseabail pointed out that it was a custom in the north of Scotland, therefore, try the Gaelic word for it: 'Calliunn" (meaning "calendar" from Latin). Success!

This website here (Bernaray, Outer Hebrides) shows that the custom is still practiced. The author states:

"Calluinn is an ancient tradition, to mark the start of the old new year (under the Julian calendar, before it switched to the Gregorian calendar c.1600AD). Berneray is one of the very few places to still celebrate this date. In past years, it used to be teenagers and young men who wandered around the houses, collecting food. Nowadays, the school children of the island go round the various houses, reciting an old Gaelic rhyme, and collecting sweets and money." And, indeed, there is a photo of the youngsters coming to the door.

Meanwhile some final photos to finish off both the New Year – Gregorian and Julian – dates:

New Year on the boat aboard Seol-na-Mara in Ardrishaig

New Year in a Mountain Bothy

New Year in a Highland Cottage

Saturday, 12 January 2008


New Year's Day, Ardirshag. The entrance to the east end of the Crinan Canal coming in from Loch Fyne.

And if you a leprechaun you can keek through the opening in the cast iron windlass that operates (or used to operate before they installed the electrical machinery) the sluices on the two outer lock gates.

Friday, 11 January 2008


For the New Year week we were moored next to a west coast puffer lying rusting in the Ardrishaig basin of the Crinan Canal. While it is possible to see Vital Spark painted on one side, there is Glasgow painted on her stern and a wooden sign Maggie lying on her deck.

The state of her is one of total neglect. It is too sad to see the real thing.

So nothing for it but to change rust into 'objects d'art'.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008


This year's Christmas card – Seol na Mara in the Faroes – drawn by Peter. This is the thirteenth year we have done this ... and Peter's thirteenth drawing.

Iain and Brian sailed Seol na Mara from Bowling to Ardrishaig in Loch Fyne the week before Christmas in order to get her into the Crinan Canal as it was to be shut for the holiday fortnight. We stayed aboard over the New Year, socializing and chilling out.

New Year's Day dinner for 8, all catered for by Maggie, provided a great boost to a seriously dreach day!

January 2nd was better - sunrise on the Ardrishaig basin. A very dilapitated puffer lies in the basin badly in need of some TLC. See a subsequent post.

A closer view of the lady ... taken some years ago. This is her 28th season and in that time there have been only one or two basic changes, including, for example, the red duster which has been replaced by the blue and white St Andrews flag.


The snow at the weekend meant photo-opportunities for John. While walking in the hills between Glen Lochay & Glen Lyon he took some photos of winter snow scenes.

When is a painting not a painting?

As an experiment, I wondered what it would be like to create a 'painted' scene using the technology of Photoshop.

The first picture is his original photograph.

Then using the dry brush filter from the Filter Gallery ... voila! ... a 'painting'!

Friday, 4 January 2008


A year ago, at Peter's house, waiting for this baby to arrive ...

Baby Ishbel arrives just before midnight, December 31, 2006.

Our Hogmanay Gift at the End of the Year