Tuesday, 28 July 2009


Some people go away for foodie weekends or mini-painting holidays. I spent last weekend in Millport. It is a small town on a small island in the Clyde which was, in the past, a holiday destination for the Glasgow masses especially during the last fortnight in July (when all the factories shut for their annual holiday.)

These days everyone flies Easyjet to Spain for the sunshine. But for the likes of me ... well ... it was Costa Clyde last weekend. And the sun shone!

And this is where I stayed. Full location details are here. My little room is dead centre in the above photo (which I took with my iPhone). The rooms were built to house nuns. They have long gone but there is accommodation here on a B&B basis (details here). I stayed 3 nights as part of a Music Appreciation weekend. (It wasn't called that, but that, essentially, is what took me there. Also I knew the man in charge of the weekend junket.)

Some people collect stray cats. This fellow collects pianos, well, actually, keyboard instruments as one is a harpsichord. So nothing for it, but we - 13 of us - spent the weekend hearing about the pianos he has there. The finest of the collection was the Bösendorfer (a grand piano with the elegant and subtle sound of a Steinway). The piano's home is in the Cathedral.

And while we were at it, we were given a blow by blow (forgive the pun) demonstration of the Frederick Holt organ (1867) which was obtained from Logie Pert Church near Brechin (east of Scotland) and installed in the Cathedral after a great deal of work restoring it (work done by Wood of Huddersfield).

This is his restored Erard built in c. 1875 but using the design and techniques of 1850, i.e. wooden frame with iron braces (not cast iron frame) and not overstrung, i.e. strings are all vertical, side by side, not 2 crossing layers which is what you see in all the pianos of today. (See how the wires cross in the photos of the inside of my piano here. This is a previous post on this blog.) This previously neglected paino was restored by Roy O'Neill of Helensburgh and is in the common room of the guest accommodation wing.

The weekend finished with an afternoon recital by this chap - Graeme McNaught. Actually he also played the Erard for us on Saturday night.

I had never heard of this pianist before and when he said, talking to us at our little chamber concert in the common room the previous night, that the piece he had just played - Wedding Day at Trondheim by Edvard Grieg - he first played aged 9 years old, my jaw dropped! Yes, I see from googling for information (see here ) he is, indeed, up there in the stratosphere! He is a big Schubert fan - fiendishly difficult stuff!

Monday, 27 July 2009


A week or more has flown by! I left behind my camera on top of the piano last week and so had nothing to post.

No longer are these 2 wee ones babies! Alastair is now 1 and 1/2 years and Ishie 2 1/2 years but he is growing to be nearly the same height as Ishie. She has plateaued a bit and is in the middle of (successfully) being toilet trained.

The only photos that are not a blur are these taken sitting on the bottom step when Ishie was getting tired and ready for a nap and Alastair was just getting his second wind!

The weather contines to be beautiful so we get lots of visits to the swing parks and other places where we feed ducks or play with wee chuckies [stones].

Friday, 17 July 2009


Alastair and I spent a morning together and we ended up at our local (archaeological site) Roman Bathhouse. It proved to be a great place for a budding young mountaineer to practice his technique! No climbing wall is over 2 feet high and most have steps from one level to the other. He, like Ishie, has a good sense of balance and also knows how to manoeuvre backwards/downwards on his tummy should things get difficult.

He is impossible to pin down so the best one can do is catch him on the hoof, so to speak!

Builder's Bum Roman Style à la Pampers nappies.

Thursday, 16 July 2009


It has been a Day of Bonuses! We had a great walk today with our CV Neighbours ending up with a pub lunch at the Cross Keys in Milngavie. We parked the car at our new abode and tested the system by seeing how long it would take to walk to the bus stop (5 minutes), the shops (another 5 minutes), and the train station (Milngavie Station terminus - another couple of minutes).

But that wasn't the best bit! Two things turned up out of the blue: [1] Adam - our former CV neighbour - is a minute's walk away! He showed us a short-cut through an adjacent lane (or 'snek' as he calls it) which joins our 2 streets. So it is back to sitting in each others back yard!

And last but not least ... [2] we found that we do not back on to another house - they are all the same along the streets both back and front - but rather on to a park! And it has swings and play area for the wee ones!

We introduced ourselves to our new neighbours and the one on the west side showed us how she has a gate which opens on to the swing park; we will be able to have the same. So Grandma and Grandpa are delighted with the Bolt out of the Blue (and are very embarrassed to find that we did not know this fact when we bought the house!)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


I made strawberry jam today. Using Iain's mother's jam pan I bottled 10 pounds of berries that I picked yesterday. The berries are really good this year due to the good weather - ripe and juicy!

This is an arty representation!

After I finished our little group of neighbours all sat out in the garden and tucked into the scones that I made earlier in the day. The jam was perfect, absolutely the business! (Last year I was a bit heavy on the pectin.)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


At long last ... we have bought a house!

It has not been for lack of trying! Oh my ... I could write a book on dealing with estate agents! We put in an offer for a house and it was accepted yesterday. Leaning very much on Mairi we pulled out all the stops to go for this 1950's bungalow in Milngavie. It needs a lot of work! What is it they say? ... 'requires renovation'!

The hard part was getting the property. For us, it is location, location, location. (We want to be near the family.) The rest - I am convinced - is downhill. (Having built our own house from scratch 40 years ago we are up for on-site activity again!)

Are property prices falling? Maybe somewhere, but not here. I guess we are talking middle class suburbs adjacent to all the amenities. Yes, there is plenty on the net for sale. (Tell me, what do people do who do not use the internet?!) I could write screeds on these internet property sites - much of it good (photos etc), but bits of it definitely sloppy.

And then there is the culture of buying and selling property. It is different in every country, e.g. Scotland and England. And certainly it is different between Scotland and Canada.

Alastair's advice was "take your estate agent out for lunch"! Ha! If they are in the office (and many are part-time) let us just say that their 'services' are not of the lunch-time cultivation type!

Later: Ho, ho! See Mairi's comment below, i.e. click on |COMMENT.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


Glasgow Parks Department have to be congratulated for the work they do for beautifying the city. Kay told me that Tollcross Park, on the city's east side, was worth visiting - and so it was!

It is a part of the city which has its share of housing and health problems. But someone, somewhere has done wonders with the large park full of rose beds (as well as play areas, leisure centre and children's farm).

I talked to a gardener who told me about the International Rose Trials. New rose varieties are planted each year and once established, the roses are regularly inspected by a panel of experts. Then in August an International Panel of rose experts carries out the final assessment of varieties on trial.

New Rose varieties are submitted by Rose Breeders and Rose Growers from various countries to assess new varieties growing in climatic conditions common to Glasgow and the West of Scotland. This one, above, is a small bush which is like the roses that grow wild along lanes and roadsides.

This rose was perfect in its symmetry.

These photos were taken with my iPhone as an experiment. I definitely will have to return with the big camera to do justice to the vast floral display!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


Mobile phone technology is really quite astonishing! This miscellaneous collection of photos is an example of 2 types of mobile phone photos.

I have a new iPhone and was trying it out in the garden at the weekend. I am sure the results would be better if I could just hold it still! That being said, the quality of the following photos is a lot better than I would have thought possible!

Here are Alastair (17 months) and Ishie (2 and 1/2 years) in the garden.

John took this photo (on his mobile) of Mairi and Alastair when on holiday. They were all touring a mine.

Alastair is All Go at the moment so this is the best I could do when trying to get a shot of him (using my iPhone camera) on the little Toddle Bike given to him at Christmas by Dawn and Alastair.

A fence has now been erected in the garden so this should make things a bit more Child-Friendly! Ishie was along on the B&Q shopping expedition to buy the boards.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Marimekko is a Finnish designer whose fabrics I like. Over the years I have bought curtain fabric, or clothes, mainly because of the big, bold colours (and a size that will fit). Recently I was given some oven gloves from her latest range - just me!

I was out with the camera and took photos in Glenarn Garden but instead of reproducing them in the raw form (some of which are similar to ones I took last year) I decided to be a Marimekko Wannabe and make some arty fabric swatches.

So here they are!



Don't know ...

Monday, 6 July 2009


There are people who - whenever you meet them - pull you down ... and then there are those always make you feel uplifted. Would that there were more of them around!

Today I got a lift from not one, but two, very lovely people: both are ladies in their 80's. Iain and I call these people (from a saying obtained from Mary Sandeman) "Octogeraniums".

Iain was decided to telephone a friend of ours, Mary, who lives in Ayrshire with a view to paying her a visit. This is a Very Special Lady whose life story would fill a book or a 2 hour TV drama. She's also a Very Sharp Cookie! The latter half of her life was taken up with accountancy work particularly in relation to tax submissions.

When Iain came off the phone he said that when he asked Mary how she was keeping these days, she replied "Oh, I'm not so well...". "Oh dear." says Iain, "What's wrong?" "It's these tax returns. I have to have them finished this week!" !!!!

The other lovely lady is our neighbour, Barbara, who has just had a successful hip replacement operation. I had coffee with her this morning and she was talking about her life, her holiday plans and the like. This lady, also in her 80's, spent many years on cruise ships (in the days when they were for those and such-as-those) as a hairdresser. She could write a book too!

Iain, her husband, is the do-for and go-for at the moment but as soon as she is fit, they are going to head to Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. Barbara was a teenager visiting there with her parents in the 1950's when she and her parents met and chatted with President Eisenhower. Culzean Castle* was his temporary residence in Scotland.

*In 1945, the Kennedy family gave the castle and its grounds to the National Trust for Scotland (thus avoiding inheritance tax). In doing so, they stipulated that the apartment at the top of the castle be given to Eisenhower in recognition of his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War.

Photo: Geraniums in Glenarn glasshouse today.

Saturday, 4 July 2009


We have been staying at Dunira in Perthshire (east of Comrie) for a few days. The weather was hot and a bit humid. However one night the thunderstorms arrived and soaked the place for most of one evening.

Mairi and John's flat is on the upper right. The Square was looking very summery with the trellis of red roses in full bloom.

Mairi and Ishie arrived on Saturday and while Mairi worked in the flat Ishie and I spent time together in the garden.

The lavendar is profuse so we picked a bunch which will be good to have drying out in my wee study-bedroom. Ishie and I walked the circumference of the garden smelling each of the various flowers on the bushes. She hasn't quite got the hang of breathing when she puts her nose to the flower but I am sure with trial and error she will eventually catch a perfume if we do it enough times!

What we did enjoy was watching the swallows swoop back and forth to their nest above our head where we sat on the garden bench. With the telephoto lens I managed to get a fairly good shot of these 2 chicks sticking their head out of their nest under the eave of the house.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


Everywhere are roses in bloom! Probably because of the hot weather and occasional rainy night it is a bumper year. Public parks, cottage gardens or big beds on the big estates ... they are quite wonderful!

Luss on Loch Lomond is one example. This village is used for film settings; it is quite charming, set on the west side of Loch Lomond. It is also a honey-pot for tourist bus parties. Today was no exception. Groups of visitors, all with cameras and/or licking ice-cream cones, were sauntering around this picturesque village enjoying the flowers before heading down to the busy beach.