Friday, 27 February 2009


Iain and I, along with 4 others, paid a visit to Crinan Canal today to have a look at the work going on to repair the lock gate at the Crinan end of the canal. There had been a failure in the bond between a concrete cill and the floor of the lock causing the canal to be closed at several points during the summer while temporary repairs were undertaken.

They have contractors in now and are on the critical path to finish the repair by the end of next week. We were taken to see the construction site and were shown photos and drawings of the work in progress.

Closure of the canal due to difficulties is nothing new. The British Waterways archive states:
"A survey for a canal at Crinan was made as early as 1771, by James Watt. At that time, no money was available and nothing was done. The Crinan Canal Act was passed in 1793 following another survey the previous year by John Rennie who became the chief engineer. Actual construction did not begin until 1794 and was beset with difficulties. Funding subsequently ran out and Government loans and additional funds finally allowed the canal to be opened, in an unfinished state, in 1801. An embankment failure in 1805 caused the canal to be closed for nearly a year and when seventy feet of bank on the main reservior gave way in 1811 the canal closed for a further 18 months as there was no money to effect repairs. In 1812 the Commissioners for the Caledonian Canal asked their engineer, Thomas Telford, to survey the state of the canal and estimate costs of repairs. The canal was then reopened after repairs and kept open until 1816 when Telford procured a contractor, John Gibb, to undertake principal repairs and was reopened in 1817. An Act was passed in 1848 placing the Crinan Canal in the hands of the Commissioners of the Caledonian. The canal was to revert to the original proprietors once the public debt, with interest, had been paid. It never was."

Tuesday, 24 February 2009


Wee Alastair is now taking steps, about a dozen or so at a time. He just loves being in the upright position and is now exploring that new world Up There in the Land of Vertical-ness.

He has had a haircut! Actually, this is the second haircut that John has given him. It completely changes his appearance, i.e. he is now a real little boy!

Here is a photo of him doing something which really made me laugh. Remember, he is only just 13 months old! Today on the deck outside he found one of wee Ishie's pink elastic ties for when she wears her hair - a mass of curls - in 2 delightful bouncy bunches on the side of her head!

This is him trying to do one on his own head! Amazing how observant they are!

He just loves peek-a-boo!

Monday, 23 February 2009


This panorama photo of Obama's inauguration may not look like much but it is a remarkable example of Google Earth's photographic technology!

I am not sure if you need to have Google Earth downloaded into your computer to make this work but try this: double click on the link

You should see this photo at full screen. The control for the picture is in the upper left. Press the + sign to zoom in, or the arrows to move right, left, up or down. If the picture looks fuzzy give it a second to clarify.

You will see that you can focus in on faces - nearly half a mile away! For fun, focus on Obama (centre stage) and then look behind him. You can clearly see all the dramatis personae!

The technology is truly amazing- and it's un-classified! Imagine what our spy agencies can see with classified technology!!!

Sunday, 22 February 2009


If you think you have worries about global warming, spare a thought for this lot!


Friday, 20 February 2009


In the winter there are regular musical events held in Helensburgh. I am one short block away from the Victoria Halls where the Helensburgh Music Society hold monthly concerts. And, may I say, they are extremely high calibre!

Take for example last week the February concert was by the Florilegium ensemble, a Baroque group playing on instruments of the period.

For me there were several highlights in the concert. One was discovering this chap below - Marin Marais, a French composer (1656-1728) engaged at the court of Louis XIV.

Marin Marais* attributed to André Bouys, c. 1704, Musée de l'Opéra, Paris

For this concert, the ensemble (who are a flexible number of players) were a quartet. The instruments featured were the viola de gamba (the one in the above photo), the harpsichord, Baroque violin and Baroque flute. The piece (and composer) I had never heard of was La Sonnerie de Sainte-Genevieve de Mont-de-Paris by Marais. I searched on U-tube and was delighted to find it here.

In doodling around looking at other U-tube videos I came up with this! As it happened the flute player this particular evening was Ashley Solomon and he talked about his Baroque flute. It was made by Rod Cameron, or as we used to call him, Roddy Cameron - a fellow who was a keen mountaineer and musician and went out to Vancouver the year before Iain.

Roddy has been making Baroque flutes for many years (California and Nairn, Scotland) so it was a blast from the past hearing Ashley talk of how he came to own his instrument.

And the meaning of Florilegium? From their website they say:

- The literal translation of Florilegium is 'a flourishing'.
- Florilegium is also known to have meant a Miscellany or Collection of things.
- There is also a famous Anthology of Flora and Fauna by Banks - known, not surprisingly, as Banks's Florilegium!


* Wikipedia

Thursday, 19 February 2009


This famous house is at the top end of the street - Colquhoun Street - where we live. It is called Hill House and is one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's most famous works. It was designed and built for the publisher Walter Blackie in 1902 – 1904.

Blackie purchased the land in 1902 and after a suggestion from a friend, Mackintosh was appointed to design and build it. Blackie said that it wasn't to be like buildings in the rest of the West of Scotland. Instead, he wanted gray rough cast for the walls, and slate for the roof; and that any architectural effect sought to be secured by the massing of the parts rather than by adventitious ornaments.*

Mackintosh gave minute attention to every detail both inside and out. The kitchen, the larder, the laundry were practically designed for the user and pleasing to look at. A 'unified design'.

On the outside the house is solid and grey looking, rather masculine. On the inside it has the strong Mackintosh style everywhere and is more smooth and feminine in appearance.

Outside appearance in today's sunshine.

Inside: the living room *

Staff were needed to run this house, of course, and here is glimpse of the life of a woman who worked in this house as described by our friend, Bob, in his 2008 Christmas letter:
He says: " I see by the return address that you have moved to the 'fair' city of Helensburgh. I too was once a resident there. We used to live at 27 East Princes Street, between the shunting yards and the gas works opposite (since long gone). At the time there was nothing very 'fair' about the place, this was 1949-53 when we lived there, as it was still during the recovery period after the war when the place was full of sailors and bombed out refugees from the 'blitz' who were housed in barracks and Nissen huts around the town. It was quite a shock for us "Toffs" from ra soo' side o' Glasca' with our inside toilets! While we were there my mother befriended a lady a Mrs Cowan (?) who lived in a gas lit croft at the S.W. corner of Colquhoun Square. I think there is a restaurant there now, and at the time worked in kitchens at "Hill House". I remember visiting her twice there in the evenings when it was quiet, as the house was still occupied we never went any further in than the pantry.

I was told many years later that Mrs Cowan(?) never saw the interier of the other parts of the house until many years later when it had been taken over by the Trust** and even then she had to pay an entrance fee!"


* Wikipedia
** In 1982 the house was donated to the National Trust for Scotland.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


When it's a camera....

While I have no trouble (well, limited trouble....) using a computer ('s a Mac - I'm lucky...) I can't seem to get my head around mobile phone technology. I have found that if I treat it not as a phone, but as a computer, I get on better.

This is an experiment. I have received these 2 photos of the grandchildren via my mobile phone. It's wonderful technology, I must say! The photos, however, are 'low resolution' therefore this is as big as they can ever be. I failed to download these correctly and am still working on it. By that I mean I email the photos to myself and that seems to work (as opposed to successfully using the given software).

Be that as it may, here is Ishie have tea with her doll. Teddy is often at the tea party but I think is out of the picture. Or on the floor midst the play dough, grated cheese and rice crackers!

Mum was away to the hills on this day when John was at home doing the work of 2 people. Here is Ishie 'helping' with Alastair's lunch. Operating 2 high chairs is no mean feat especially as they like to wiggle out when someone comes into view or they have had enough mince, potatoes and yogurt!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


Quite by accident I discovered this wonderful flour: Allinson's Oatmill White Bread Flour. Very flavoursome! Why should it make such a difference? Beats me!

The website here states that it contains Wheat, Flaked Oats, Oat Bran, Pinhead Oatmeal and Gluten (well, it would contain gluten, wouldn't it?!)

The large loaf is one I made at the weekend. In it I put the last of Dorothy's Chutney. It makes a delicious loaf which is very moist - don't really even need to use butter!

On the right of the loaf is Iain's Soda Bread which he made using the same flour. The bread comes out the same light brown colour as using brown flour (or mixture of white and brown).

Monday, 16 February 2009


This Amaryllis bulb was a Christmas present from Mairi. It now sits in the window ingo of the kitchen enjoying the south light.

I particularly like the colours of the following 'cut-out'.

Sunday, 15 February 2009


John and I took the children out for a walk to the end of Helensburgh Pier, then along the promenade to the playpark. All good fun!

Saturday, 14 February 2009


Mairi and Iain headed to the mountains today so John and I joined forces to run Base Camp. John brought the children to Helensburgh for lunch so I decided to make it "party time" for the wee ones. "A birthday!" says Ishie.

Tiime for fairy cakes using cream and heart shapes for the top. The silver tray is my mother's - just the thing for a tea party. The linen town has "Canadian Pacific" woven in the red stripe. It was in my mother's linen drawer. Must have come from some CPR train journey years ago! I use it in a tray or a basket when serving scones.

Ishie likes to be a helper. The photo has a flaw: the reflection from the silver plate marked the skin on her face which I found difficult to erase.

Wee Alastair is absolutely into everything now! He loves to climb up on things and pull stuff out of cupboards, off the table etc! And see that cucumber in the foreground? He held that in his mouth and rubbed his gums over and over. He has 4 teeth and must be cutting some more. It seems that this humble vegetable is very soothing!

Friday, 13 February 2009


John and Steve were in the mountains this week. They headed into Coire an Lochain below Beinn a Creachain which is on the southern boundary of the Rannoch Moor.

They camped overnight in freezing temperatures but were well prepared for their night's endurance test. Well, actually there was just one thing missing ....

The nights are long at this time of year. A fellow can work up a terrible thirst....

Hold on a minute! This is Scotland! You're supposed to be out there to suffer!

Thursday, 12 February 2009


If I was out on the mountain tops I'd be taking pictures of brocken spectres and ice crystals. What does one do when the farthest horizon beckoning is Tesco's car park? With lots of snow and patches of blue sky, it's time to rise to the challenge! The good news is that they can be used for some 'arty' computer-doodling. Here are a couple of examples.

The photos are paired. The first is unadulterated; the second is been made 'arty'. The question, however, remains, which is actually better?!


This is early morning on our latest big snowfall. The black iron gate outside our living window was the first thing I saw when I drew the curtains. I took the photo through the window (south-east facing).

This is the same photo as a 'cut-out'. There is a shadow along the base of the hedge and behind the trees.

Red berries on the bush at Tesco's in Milngavie. I was really taking photos of the burn with the snow on the rocks but they turned out pretty blah.

Again a 'cut out'. See the 2 blue colours that have emerged.

Tesco trollies. Not a great shot as they were in the shade.

Made, here, into a 'water colour' and lightened a bit. M-m-m-m-m ... not sure that is an improvement!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


The snow has finally reached up due to a shift in the weather pattern. The sun is not out due to the cloud cover but it is so nice, none-the-less to be out tramping around in it.

Our street, Colquhoun Street was plowed in the early morning. These trees are Japanese cherry along the length of the street. While the snowdrops are coming up now, the pink blossom won't appear along this street until May.

The post-office in Colquhoun Square was showing signs of the first icicles. That stonework at the top is a date inscription: 1898. Under it is the crown of Queen Victoria and VR below that. The motto on the banner at the base, I think, is: DEI GRA • BRITT • REG (Victoria, by the grace of God Queen of Britain).

Leaving the Post Office and heading to the promenada along the shore I came across an odd sight. These birds - crows - below were gathered on the roof-top leaving the gulls and mallard ducks gathered along the pier and in the water, respectively.

The middle crow is not dead. When I came up this collection of crows, about mid-day, my attention was caught by this middle fellow rolling down the roof slope, over and over, like a child on a slope in the park rolling down to the bottom.

This one appeared to be washing his feathers; his feet were kicking and his wings moved slightly. Then he got up and hopped up to the roof ridge and was ruffling his feathers! That is him on the right. (The middle image is a copy pasted for demonstration purposes!)

Sunday, 8 February 2009


It was a lovely sunny day but only 1 degree above freezing. These Highland cattle at Auchendennan Farm, on the road to Helensburgh, were not bothered about the chilly air and mud underfoot.

The snow on the hills behind Helensburgh show that we have been getting the outer edges of the big snowfalls that have hit the south and southeast of England. They have had huge dumps of it!

Down at sea level, and also because of the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, we enjoy milder temperatures than the rest of the country.

These long horned, hairy cattle are not the most common type in Scotland but where they are evident it is mainly the red coated ones that are predominant. Apparently it was Queen Victoria who set this fashion, as fashion it was: the black coated cattle were common until she established a different custom.

This handsome fellow is courtesy Wikipedia. "Somewhere in the Outer Hebrides".

The origin of the word 'blackmail' is tied up with these cattle.

Rob Roy MacGregor was born in 1671 in this part of the world and was resident not far away from here (the other side of Loch Lomond). "He was, they say, in the cattle business . He traded cattle, but also for a consideration, made sure that your cattle passed safely through these lawless lands. Whilst Coll of Barisdale in Knoydart is credited with the coining of the term Blackmail, it was also Rob Roy's business. Blackmail was literally Black Meal , the highland cattle." [Source: here.]

Friday, 6 February 2009


With VIP (Very Important People) visitors coming from Germany and Sweden in June it is time to start some serious boat maintenance! There is nothing boat owners love better than getting into their boiler suits, getting out the oily rag and the Black and Decker equipment and, finally, having the tranny going in the background!

A cuppa is the First Step and the next step is The Snagging List. So today we paid a visit to Seol-na-Mara to start on the clean-up, clear-up and what do we need to do now? A new engine is on the cards; sails have to be repaired; sail-bags to be washed and so on.

With sun shining in to the cockpit, it was time for the Marigolds. [For the benefit of our non-British friends, Marigolds are housewive's rubber gloves - see the blue ones in the photo.]

There have been many Marigold Cruises in my time. Today I was securely tied to the dock with a cup of coffee in my hand and, thankfully, horizontal while I dived into the lockers and had a look at the cooker (yuk).

It was very cold but if you sat in the corner of the cockpit there was warmth in the sunshine! I was being very careful getting on and off not to fall in ... through the ... ICE!

And lastly let it be known that our lovely presents received from Piggy and her owner are now being put to good use. This is the Sail Repair Bag. Very Smart. Piggy has Excellent Taste!