Friday, 29 February 2008


The pemanent residents of George Square, Glasgow

Thursday, 28 February 2008

BREST 2008

It's all happening here.


Photo: Charlie Craig

Wednesday, 27 February 2008


It is life raft service time and that meant a trip to Port Glasgow to the factory of Ocean World. They have moved from their location down by the river and have to be reached far up the hill in an industrial estate. Good people and not really a problem .... except that I got lost (as I usually do).

How does one make virtue of a necessity? Take a shot or two of the hinterland behind Port Glasgow – just beyond the built-up area of housing estates (and the well-hidden industrial estate). Literally, a world of a difference!

When is a wrong turn not a wrong turn? When it is turned into 'art'.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008


Outside the Victorian walled garden of House for an Art Lover I took this photo as the sun momentarily peeked through the ever-present rain clouds.

Some years ago I acquired this book - with the gold embossed stamp 'Wordsworth' on the green cover - of my grandfathers (a classics scholar and a clergyman). Sure enough there was poem about snowdrops. It is Sonnet Sonnet XVI, composition date unknown but was published in 1819.

To a Snowdrop

Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows,
and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day
by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops,
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a
Whose zeal outruns his promise!
Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

William Wordsworth

Reference: The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Ed. Thomas Hutchinson, London Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press Warehouse, Ame Corner, E.C., 1905, page 266. Did he buy it in Stroud, where he was born, or in Canada?

Monday, 25 February 2008


The House for an Art Lover is the modern day interpretation of a design that Charles Rennie Mackintosh created for a competition in 1901.

It is constructed to his original plans in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow. The original design was submitted to the German design magazine Zeitschrift fur Innendekoration in response to a call for ideas 'to be of a thoroughly modern style'. The art was to be in the house itself.

He did not win because the design was incomplete at the deadline. When resubmitted he received an honorary award. His designs were published in 1902 but the building was never built.

Ninety years later this 'modern' building was constructed (referring to his original plans) with the assistance of Glasgow City Council. Graham Roxburgh and Andy Macmillan were instrumental in creating it with other artists and craftspeople involved.

The original portfolio of designs are displayed in the house.

The Victorian walled garden, kept beautifully by the Glasgow Parks Department, was just catching the sun between the showers.

Sunday, 24 February 2008


Mairi's lovely yellow tulips have been caught by the sunshine today.

The tulip was called tulipan or turban from the similarity of its corolla (whorl of floral envelopes - dim. of corona or crown) to the head-dress of the Turks.

Apparently a feast of tulips was celebrated in the seraglio or harem of the Grand Seignoir. Vases of tulips of every colour were placed in long galleries; candles and lamps were added giving light and beautiful fragrances; cages of singing birds were placed around and showers of rose water refreshed the air completing the scene of enchantment.

In the centre of the seraglio the Grand Seignoir reclined on expensive skins while he and his lords, seated at his feet, watched the dances of the lovely women of the court.

But there was a cloud on the sultan's brow.

Amidst all of this spendour he had observed a young slave-boy proffering a single tulip to a beautiful slave-girl and ended up tormented with jealousy.

Ah-h-h-h ....

Saturday, 23 February 2008





Or is it?

An American report called To Read or Not to Read: a Question of National Consequence here was published in November, 2007 by the National Endowment for the Arts. It measures book reading and says literacy is declining and that it is bad for the nation's culture (in this case, America.)

The report "gathers statistics from more than 40 studies on the reading habits and skills of children, teenagers, and adults. The compendium reveals recent declines in voluntary reading and test scores alike .... They are reading less ... and less well."

But reading is not only about books, i.e. they haven't measured reading on the internet (called' text-based interactive media'). The Guardian of February 7, 2008 here points this out stating that "The only reason the intellectual benefits are not measurable is that they haven't been measured yet."

Our favourite little person who has now learned to turn the pages over to look at the pictures (as opposed to flinging them on the floor!) Full marks to the library for layout and robustness!

* Photo from To Read or Not To Read (Research Report #47), courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Friday, 22 February 2008


If a rose by any other name can smell as sweet (says Shakespeare) then can porridge, cooked by any other method than in a saucepan on the stove, taste different or ever better?

Yes ...

Hervé This*, a chemical physicist, based at the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Paris studies these things. The subject area is 'molecular gastronomy'; he talks about his work and the impact it has on chefs, restaurants and eating.

In the Financial Times article here the interviewer, Brigid Grauman, asks:

"Why does microwaved porridge taste so much better? The answer is that porridge is made up of granules of starch that either bloat homogeneously (in the microwave) or keep a tough core (on the stove). 'I am ready to take a microscope – no, I encourage you to take a microscope – and examine your grain of porridge.' "


* His very fine website (in French) is here.

Thursday, 21 February 2008


Because it was recommended here, I had a go at reading Au Bonheur des Dames by Zola (in the English translation The Ladies' Paradise by Brian Nelson, Oxford World's Classics). I associate Zola's writing with grim stories in grim settings, e.g. coal miners being oppressed by their masters. This, however, is a lighter example ... and as in his other books, a real social observer.

It is all about a huge department store in Paris in the late nineteenth century. He shows how it is a great capitalist machine and the owner-manager, M. Mouret, exists to exploit its female customers. He caters to their whims, their fashions and rubs his hands while the cash registers ring up the profits. It is very sensuous e.g. describing all the satins and silks, the lace and leather.

A great character writer, e.g. "Madame Aurélie, meanwhile, did not know how to withdraw decently .... furious that her husband had not invented a pretext for calling her; but he was never any good for serious things, he would have died of thirst beside a pond." Wonderful stuff!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008


A lovely surprise!

Ever seen a piano with a happy face?

Tuesday, 19 February 2008


Turned pages today
Piano music
Fauré's Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor, op.15

It's nerve-wracking good fun!

Fauré's favorite instrument was the piano. He used it in almost all of his chamber music, all of his songs and everything else he wrote usually began as a score for piano. His musical expressiveness came from his fluency at the piano; and his ambidextrousness accounts for his themes and melodies which pass easily from one hand to the other.

A bouquet of flowers
(French irises – of course – Anne's front door)
Colin and his colleagues, the Kentigern Ensemble

A most enjoyable lunchtime concert
Ramshorn, Ingram Street, Glasgow.

Next door
Jump leads
Coffee and cake!

Photo of Fauré and biographical text are from Classical Music Pages here and here.

Monday, 18 February 2008


The sun shone on Clachan of Campsie graveyard today. This little village at the foot of the Campsie Hills is along the road from Milton of Campsie and Lennoxtown both of which were places where calico printing took place in the days when cotton was brought to the west of Scotland and spun, dyed, printed, washed in the various outlying hamlets or 'clachans'. This was in the 18th and 19th century.

This graveyard has some very old graves and at the entrance is the skull and crossbones (symbolizing mortality) to the left of the opening. It looks like it has been moved from somewhere else and perched in a re-located position.

Long shadows in the row of headstones. Some date from the 1600s which is also the century date just visible below the skull and crossbones, i.e. 16__. Buchanan names are some that are recognizable.

Famous people buried in the graveyard and the history of the Parish Church of Campsie (in ruins) can be read about here and here.

Sunday, 17 February 2008


Clear February days with blue skies and frost in the mornings. It reminds me of Chicago; every morning I had to scrape the windscreen of the car where it was parked outside our apartment in Evanston. Scrape, scrape, chip, chip. In the background is the garage, a real garage except it is full of saw-horses and Black and Decker tools.

The electrical tape on the aerial functions as a rooster-tail, albeit ever so small. I can see it at 100 paces in the numerous car parks I frequent.

Peirus forrestii in the garden is etched in frost. Named after the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens plant collector, George Forrest (1873 - 1932) this plant does wonderfully well in our cool, north facing garden.

And fir cones lying on the street edge in the early morning - outside Kessington shops.

Saturday, 16 February 2008


A right Royal Feast today – both for the eyes and for the soul! Mums and babes (and David helping to keep little hands out of harm's way) all gathered round Anne and David's big circular table to enjoy Anne's freshly baked walnut bread and wholewheat brown loaf. Big slices for us, crusts for wee Ish; the two newborns really missed out.

Memories of long ago, being read this poem from a first edition book When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne that my mother greatly prized. I remember it having a dark green cover. I often think of this poem, not so much in terms of having a nice slice of bread, but rather on occasions when I am frustrated and mutter to myself "Oh for heaven's sakes! I only want a little bit of butter for my bread!"

The King's Breakfast

The King asked
The Queen, and
The Queen asked
The Dairymaid:
"Could we have some butter for
The Royal slice of bread?"

The Queen asked the Dairymaid,
The Dairymaid
Said, "Certainly,
I'll go and tell the cow
Before she goes to bed."

The Dairymaid
She curtsied,
And went and told the Alderney:
"Don't forget the butter for
The Royal slice of bread."

The Alderney said sleepily:
"You'd better tell
His Majesty
That many people nowadays
Like marmalade

The Dairymaid
Said "Fancy!"
And went to
Her Majesty.
She curtsied to the Queen, and
She turned a little red:
"Excuse me,
Your Majesty,
For taking of
The liberty,
But marmalade is tasty, if
It's very

The Queen said
And went to his Majesty:
"Talking of the butter for
The royal slice of bread,
Many people
Think that
Is nicer.
Would you like to try a little

The King said,
And then he said,
"Oh, deary me!"
The King sobbed, "Oh, deary me!"
And went back to bed.
He whimpered,
"Could call me
A fussy man;
I only want
A little bit
Of butter for
My bread!"

The Queen said,
"There, there!"
And went to
The Dairymaid.
The Dairymaid
Said, "There, there!"
And went to the shed.
The cow said,
"There, there!
I didn't really
Mean it;
Here's milk for his porringer
And butter for his bread."

The queen took the butter
And brought it to
His Majesty.
The King said
"Butter, eh?"
And bounced out of bed.
"Nobody," he said,
As he kissed her
"Nobody," he said,
As he slid down
The banisters,
My darling,
Could call me
A fussy man -

I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!"

A. A. Milne


Poem by A. A. Milne in the collection entitled When We Were Very Young, Methuen, 1924.

Illustration by E.H. Shepherd

Friday, 15 February 2008


Is this St Lucia? Scilly Isles? No ... it is Costa Clyde on a clear, cold February day – Largs Marina to be exact.

Pressure-hosing down the hull before putting her back into the water.

Thursday, 14 February 2008


Required reading for the Book Group - Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. It is all about tea and cakes (and a fair bit about clothes) in an English village in the 1850s.

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) was an English novelist who lived at the time of Charles Dickens. Dickens invited Mrs Gaskell to contribute to his magazine, Household Words and this is where Cranford first appeared in 1853.

Her novel Cranford gives an insight to the social life of women "of a certain age" in Victorian England in the 1840s. Set in a small town (Knutsford) it tells of the day to day life of a little group of unmarried women - full of social observation and gentle humour.

When giving the postman something at Christmas ("his dole") it was noted that it was a time where it was "a glorious opportunity for giving advice and benefitting her fellow-creatures.

The book is on Amazon here and the BBC dramatization is here.

Written in the 1850s, it is interesting to see how the author uses certain words, e.g. Esquimaux (Eskimos), receipt (recipe), crape (crèpe).

Actually I thought Mrs Gaskell was better known for her biography The Life of Charlotte Brontë. She had befriended Charlotte Brontë and after Charlotte's death in 1855, Charlotte's father, the Rev. Patrick Brontë, commissioned Gaskell to write her biography. It was published in 1857 (but, apparently, reads much like a novel.)

Perhaps a summary of her view of the world (of poverty, industrial exploitation, womens' lives) is as she stated: "I am more and more certain we can never be certain in this world."

Photo of cakes is The Pantry, Byres Road yesterday - a joy to the eye.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Down to Largs to deliver sails for repair and maintenance. The crocuses were out in the February sunshine.

And where were these crocuses? At the base of this starboard-hand channel buoy at the entrance to the marina.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


Foggy start to the day but as the sun started to come through Glasgow University was looking fine across the way from Yorkhill Childrens' Hospital.

From Kelvingrove Park looking up the way to Gilmorehill. First photo is raw; second is a cutout. The River Kelvin is below (standing on Partick Bridge).

Sunday, 10 February 2008


Alastair John, born February 2, 2008. One week old.

A week old: Alastair and Ishbel (born December 31, 2006)
The doll's bed is from Mairi and Alastair's Playgroup Days