Monday, 17 August 2009


It's holiday time. While everyone whose life revolves around the school year is now returning this week - to work and and to school - we are all planning to head off. The flying caravan is loading up ... Vro-o-o-m, vro-o-o-m.

I am now closing down for 2 weeks while Mairi, John and I gather up these two little Funny Bunnies and descend of Glasgow Airport destined for Vancouver where we will be met by Grandpa and Uncle Alastair and Auntie Dawn.

So you can think of us ... 9 hours flying ... with the stickers, crayons, chalk... and lots of kiddies books!

Saturday, 15 August 2009


This is the bungalow we have bought in Milngavie. It was built in the early 1960's by Lawrence Builders on what was then farmland on the outskirts of Glasgow. Built in the post-war period, it was a rare thing in the Glasgow area to have owner-occupied housing. No matter what the design or layout (not great...), it was a great thing to have A Home of Your Own (the Lawrence slogan).

This house was lived in for 50 years by the same people who bought it when it was first built. Not much has been done over that period, however. Over the past winter, it has lain empty (occupants deceased). In order to put a smile of the face of this sad little house I placed Alastair's wooden Schipol Airport tulips in the window on the right and Mairi's gladioli in the window on the left.

As we are downsizing and very much wanted a south facing garden/back yard, we are delighted that this house absolutely fills the bill! It is about a 15 minute walk from John and Mairi's (and the same distance to the shops and train in the other direction). They came over today and we paced around the 'policies' thinking about what sort of things could be done to do up the place.

What I really miss in our lovely flat in Helensburgh is a washing line! So, although I plan to have a whirly-gig type washing line, the first thing I did upon receiving the keys and opening up the house today, was to hang up a brand new clothes-peg container, i.e. a polka dot bucket, on the existing washing line and peg out a wet tea-towel.

There is garage, a very dilapidated garage, which Iain has plans to do up and maybe extend. In it were left a great many very rusty garden tools. The idea is that we stay in Helensburgh until we get the house fixed up before we fully move in. It is livable, but needs painting, re-wiring and work to update the kitchen and bathroom.

Thursday, 13 August 2009


Louise lent me this most interesting book by a Canadian author, Carl Honoré. He is from Edmonton and has a website here . The book is here on Amazon.

It is all about the Slow Movement taking place on a global scale. It started with the Slow Food Movement in Italy some years ago where a group of local people made a feature of their home-grown, home-made dishes. Basically, this (earliest) movement arose as an antidote to the Fast Food that permeates every corner of the world now.

This author shows how everything is becoming more hurried; we live in a culture of speed. We all know the manifestations!

As someone who is guilty of clock-watching and rushing around like there is no tomorrow (particularly when it is not necessary!) I am mindful that it is a Good Idea to SLOW DOWN! The Slow Movement is not about operating at a snail's pace, just doing things less hectically. It is about striking a balance. They use the term Tempo Giusto meaning 'at the right speed'.

One way to do this is sit in the garden. Here is Anne in her garden down by St Germains Loch. I joined her on a perfect afternoon where we simply sat and drank tea and watched the coots and moorhens scrabble along the water's edge.

Under the heading of Work (or should that be Leisure?) I think the Apple Mac people have got things about right.

This is a photo I took of a sales assistant in the Apple Store on Buchanan Street, Glasgow. (I was buying an iPhone and this was a test of the phone's clever camera!) All the staff wear these T-shirts. I find the sales assistants most patient and helpful whenever I wander in with my list of questions. I am sure they get lots of business because they practice what the logo on their T-shirt says: "I could talk about this stuff for hours"!!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


Our good friend, Professor Sir William (as he is known to his friends) passed along his Sunday Times Book Reviews which he puts aside for us every week. Having time to read through them in these quiet days, I was fascinated by John Carey's review of Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World.

In his opening sentence Carey says that the book is not about Vermeer...and it is spell-binding! Basically, the book is about the Dutch trade with China in the 17th century. It includes the story of how the Dutch, and the French and the British, headed toward North America in order to fulfil the demand for the raw material for a 'fashion' item, namely, beaver pelts for making hats. (By this time the European and Scandinavian beaver had become extinct.)

These beaver pelts were obtained (i.e. traded) from the natives and in so doing it opened up the continent as the traders navigated the river systems on their trade routes. Yes, explorers were also looking for China but it is the quest for beaver pelts that interests me.

In British Columbia, Canada, I, along with every other school child, learned the history of the fur trade. However, somewhere along the way I do not recall ever being taught what these (beaver pelt) 'hats' actually looked like! I know that it was not a Davy Crocket hat as that was something I learned about later; it was American and also made from raccoon.

This photograph of the Vermeer painting of The Officer and the Laughing Girl explains it all. The hats were these wide-brimmed, high-crowned fashion items worn by men. (Frans Hal's Laughing Cavalier is another example.)

I would imagine that they must have been quite a statement of wealth (and social standing?) too.

Now, as it happens someone asked me today to give them information about Alastair and the Vancouver Film School. When I googled VFS I got exactly what I wanted here.

I read that the Film School is very much in demand for teaching graphcs and film and all that but I felt there was a little Je ne sais quoi needed for one particular member of staff!

Monday, 10 August 2009


Ishie is preparing to go on holiday next week - to visit Uncle Al and Auntie Dawn in Vancouver. Mairi bought her this pretty sundress and here she is modeling it with the added touch of my sunhat!

Friday, 7 August 2009


Mairi gave me some gladioli last week. She got them at Marks and Spencers which means that one knows they will be good for display and they will last a reasonable time if placed in a cool, location with good light.

Here they are in the entrance foyer and are a joy to the eye. Everyone comments on the unusual colour - pale pink with magenta streaks.

The hydrangea outside our window is a light strawberry red and the orange rose bush (which is in my line of sight when I sit at the dining room table) is in full flower behind it.

This is a close-up photo of the roses. Every week more flowers appear. It must be the good weather we have been having! The hydrangea and the rose bush were planted by Iain upstairs. As a former green-keeper and garden groundsman he takes a great interest in the welfare of these bushes.

Thursday, 6 August 2009


Cricket is taking over just now, especially on the radio.

Media Centre at Lord's Cricket Ground, London (Source: Wikipedia)

Last night I heard (Alan Bennett, I think) reading the following poem on the BBC World Service. I don't know when it was written. I am guessing early 20th century. He (PG Wodehouse) lived 1881 - 1975.

By PG Wodehouse

The sun in the heavens was beaming,
The breeze bore an odour of hay,
My flannels were spotless and gleaming,
My heart was unclouded and gay;
The ladies, all gaily apparelled,
Sat round looking on at the match,
In the tree-tops the dicky-birds carolled,
All was peace -- till I bungled that catch.

My attention the magic of summer
Had lured from the game -- which was wrong.
The bee (that inveterate hummer)
Was droning its favourite song.
I was tenderly dreaming of Clara
(On her not a girl is a patch),
When, ah, horror! there soared through the air a
Decidedly possible catch.

I heard in a stupor the bowler
Emit a self-satisfied 'Ah!'
The small boys who sat on the roller
Set up an expectant 'Hurrah!'
The batsman with grief from the wicket
Himself had begun to detach --
And I uttered a groan and turned sick. It
Was over. I'd buttered the catch.

O, ne'er, if I live to a million,
Shall I feel such a terrible pang.
From the seats on the far-off pavilion
A loud yell of ecstasy rang.
By the handful my hair (which is auburn)
I tore with a wrench from my thatch,
And my heart was seared deep with a raw burn
At the thought that I'd foozled that catch.

Ah, the bowler's low, querulous mutter
Points loud, unforgettable scoff!
Oh, give me my driver and putter!
Henceforward my game shall be golf.
If I'm asked to play cricket hereafter,
I am wholly determined to scratch.
Life's void of all pleasure and laughter;
I bungled the easiest catch.

[Photo source: It is from Wodehouse's book Mike - A Public School Story, London, 1909. Illustration by T M R Whitwell.]
Least my North American friends glaze over at this (no, I don't understand cricket either!) I searched (and found!) the following poem (first published in 1888) which I was introduced to many years ago by my teacher, Mr Moore, when he read it out to our Grade 6 class:

Casey at the Bat
A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888

by Ernest Thayer

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon of the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast.
They thought if only Casey could but get a whack at that-
We'd put even money now with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Johnnie safe at second, and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 thoats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile on Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on the stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted some one on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult, he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike Two."

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "fraud";
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed;
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville -mighty Casey has struck out.

This photo, found on Wikipedia, is captioned Holliston, MA - Mudville Village, Statue and Plaque Dedicated to Casey of 'Casey at the Bat'.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


Last month Iain and I visited Aberfeldy Watermill which has now been converted to a bookshop and coffee house. I was greatly taken with the tasteful conversion, the range of books and the food and cakes in the Bistro. When they served the coffee it came in a very smart stainless steel cafetiere accompanied by a 3 minutes stainless steel-cased timer. I was very impressed with the offer of, and the clean lines of, that little timer.

So last week I bought one in Dunkeld when Maggie and I stopped for lunch en route to Inverness. As Alastair Bird in Vancouver would say "It's good Karma." By that I mean a coffee pot needs a companion and I just know the coffee tastes better for it! (I feel no need to defend irrationality: I buy wine because of the label, a car because of the colour ... and I am here to say that, without exception, the system works!)

The habit of always having a timer on hand comes straight from my mother. This chicken above is my current timer in the kitchen. It is fairly new as I dropped and broke my old one.

Some years ago my mother told me the story of how she was out at the lake and visitors dropped in. A small child was with them and in order to keep the child occupied they got her to draw each of the ladies sitting there having their coffee. And what did her drawing of my mother look like? She had her sitting in a chair with her very distinctive kitchen timer perched at her elbow! It gave my mother a huge laugh as the child was absolutely spot on! She always had something on the stove or in the oven. It was probably jars of fruit being processed in her king-size pressure cooker!

Anyhow, on her 80th birthday Mairi drew this picture of Grandma and we had Crosbie Printers print a whole bunch on cream card (as it formed the basis for party invitations).

In the drawing you can see the Sunbeam mixer next to the pile of recipe books on which is perched her timer. Oh, and she is wearing Nora's knitted slippers!

Those boxes under the table are apple boxes. Note the "SAFE" printed on the side. (Salmon Arm Farmer's Exchange).

She is baking cookies. She baked A LOT of cookies! And the bottom line always was a back-handed compliment from my father (as he scooped a hand-full on his way out the door) "Gee those are good! Whydon'tcha make an apple-box full of 'em?!"

And to this day, this crazy line comes into my head when someone, for example, buys or produces something that is a 'good thing' - "Gee that is really good! Whydon'tcha buy/produce an apple-box full!"

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


Mairi, Ishie, Alastair and I went out for tea today. Anne invited us over as she had wee Catriona for the day. In for a penny; in for a pound!

A lovely photo but dull because I took it with the iPhone looking toward the light. The ones of Mairi and Ishie simply did not turn out at all. I am aye learnin'!

Ishie in training pants working on which shoe goes on which foot! Note Teddy in the pushchair with the dark brown toy dog hitching a lift. Ishie carts around handbags which she hangs on the handles. She is a very busy little person what with her trips around the garden 'shopping ... shopping ... shopping'!

A girl (of 2 and a half) can never have enough knickers!

Monday, 3 August 2009


Being the squirrel that I am - by that I mean that I like to fill jars with pickley things and put them on shelves for the winter - I had a session of making beetroot chutney today. I bought them at House of Bruar the other day on the way back from Inverness.

I love the colour of beets and make this chutney as much for that reason as for their value as winter food.

I use Maggie's recipe and it is an absolute winner. When she first let me try her batch last year I sat down and scoffed the whole jar.

It is basically beets, apples and onions with vinegar, sugar and salt for the pickling. I don't process the jars. I cannot see why this would be necessary as using vinegar is a preserving process itself.

Done, just awaiting the label "Maggie's Chutney, 2009". The gladioli are from Mairi and are just beginning to open. Being an M&S product I know they will last for ages (especially as I place them in the foyer for everyone else to enjoy).

Sunday, 2 August 2009


Iain is off to Canada ahead of the rest of us (who go in a fortnight) and while he is away I am out visiting friends.

This is an artistic representation of various vases of flowers which I have had the priveledge of enjoying whilst visiting and/or staying overnight this past week.

Maggie's fresia on the bedroom dressing table.

Maggie's clematis on the window ledge.

Anne's golden lilies in the front room.

I took this photo in the garden outside the Dunkeld Fish Smokehouse en route to Louise's this week. I think it is Miss Willmott's Ghost (Erynguim gigantium). Actually, I see there are many images of plants of this name in Google images. The same name appears to cover this genus whether the species has frondy petals (are they petals?) or plain ones.

I have always like this plant; Neil Bell gave me a cutting some years ago and I always think of him when I see these in other people's gardens.

Anyhow, I doodled around with this photo and the only arty input that pleased me was to make it half dark and half light. Kind of wierd but, ahem ... that's 'art'!!!

Good heavens! Where has the time gone?!!!!


Leaving Inverness on the East Coast of Scotland one reaches the Cromarty Firth which opens into the North Sea. This is the lighthouse at Chanonry Point. Everyone was out on this lovely day especially as there was a pod of dolphins passing the point here (far right, out of sight).

Even the gulls were out but everyone on the shore was paying more attention to the activity on the sea. This fella was doing his best to ignore the off-shore show.

Coffee time found us at this lovely location - Foulis Restaurant and Farm Shop - on the Cromarty Firth. Full description is on their website here.

Saturday, 1 August 2009


Maggie and I drove to the north-east of Scotland - Dingwall, via Inverness - to pay a visit to Louise and Andrew. The weather was absolutely glorious! The fields of barley are now golden; the rolling farmland made a pleasant change from our west coast more mountainous and damp part of the world.

Louise took us to this wonderful art gallery only a few miles along the road from her home. The website is here. There is a map on the Find Us page.

Until about 4 years ago it was still used as a church but, like so many churches, the numbers were falling and it was sold. To my mind it has been very sensitively changed for purposes of its current function.

That is a Bechstein grand piano and the little card on the beautifully polished lid says that the piano is cared for - I can see that it is and therefore I'll bet it is regularly tuned - and that it is there to be played should anyone wish to. Full marks on two counts!

I really like what the lady whose gallery it is, has done with the place. Everything about the place 'worked' - the building, the interior fittings, the way she arranged the gallery into spatial 'rooms' (it is all open space).

So many buildings or rooms are, to my mind, 'dead', i.e. they say nothing to you when you look at them nor do they speak to you when you enter the building or perhaps a room inside. (Actually, there is one thing worse than a building not speaking to me is one where I simply cannot engage with it, for example, one where you cannot find the door!!!)

This place was different. Look at those pots on the doorstep. They say it all! It just got better and better! Her selection of paintings, glassware, ceramics, to mention just a few, was most impressive!

This is the window above the main (front) entrance. It intrigued me. I am not a great fan of stained glass but I liked this window. I like the geometry. There's a thought: maybe it isn't stained glass!