Friday, 31 December 2010


It's the last day of December ... and it's Ishie's 4th birthday! So before we head off to our old neighbours to bring in the New Year this evening (dinner and drams) we joined the children and friends in Partick 's Soft Play in the City for her birthday party.

A card from Grandma and Grandpa created using Photoshop. (I should make T-shirts that say, similar to the Apple T-shirts, "I could do this stuff all day!")

The Birthday Girl getting her face painted.

You will have to picture me leading the children in singing! We change the names where appropriate:

Dance with your Granny
My bonnie lassie
Dance with your Granny
When the boat comes in!

You shall have a fishie
In a little dishie
A fishie for wee Ishie
When the boat comes in!

And then Alastair (about to be 3 years old in 6 weeks) has his face painted.
Here is his special song (Glasgow street song) which all the children know:

Ally, bally, ally bally bee,
Sittin' on yer mammy's knee.
Greetin' for anether bawbee,
Tae buy mair Coulter's candy.

Ally, bally, ally bally bee,
Sittin' on your mammy's knee.
Greetin' for a wee bawbee
Tae buy some Coulter's candy.

Poor wee Ishie's lookin' affa thin.
A rickle o'banes covered ower wi' skin.
Noo she's gettin' a double chin,
Wi' sookin' Coulter's candy.

Winter's awfly hard the noo
Faither's signin' on the broo
But he's got a penny, a penny for you
Tae sook some Coulter's candy.

And the last Special Song:

The Big Ship Sails - variation for Ishie's December 31st birthday

The big ship sails on the Alley Alley O
The Alley Alley O
The Alley Alley O
The big ship sails on the Alley Alley O
On the last day of December.

Cutty Sark painted by John Alcott

Thursday, 30 December 2010


The end of a book and the end of a year. I have just finished reading this book (details below) and want to sign off the year by selecting text from the very last page. It is actually a poem by the author, Alexander McCall Smith, set at the end of the narrative.

Domenica says to Angus that a poem is called for, by way of a celebration.
"Very well" he says, "A poem about small things....".

Dear one, how many years is it - I forget -

Since this luminous evening when you joined us

In the celebration of whatever it was that we were celebrating - I forget -

It is a mark of a successful celebration

That one should have little recollection of the cause;

As long as the happiness itself remains a memory.

Our tiny planet, viewed from afar, is a place of swirling clouds

And dimmish blue; Scotland, though lodged large in all our hearts,

Is invisible at that distance, not much perhaps,

But to us it is our all, our place, the opposite of nowhere;

Nowhere can be seen by looking up

And realising, with shock, that we really are very small;

You would say, yes, we are, but never overcompensate,

Be content with small places, the local, the short story

Rather than the saga; take pleasure in private jokes,

In expressions that cannot be translated,

In references that can be understood by only two or three,

But which speak with such eloquence for small places

And the fellowship of those whom you know so well

And whose sayings and moods are as familiar
As the weather; these mean everything,

They mean the world, they mean the world.


This book is the compilation of a series of daily articles which ran in The Scotsman, an Edinburgh daily newspaper, in 2005. (It followed on from a similar serialisation called 44 Scotland Street which ran in 2004 and keeps the same characters.)

The book details are here on Alexander McCall Smith's website.

Top photo: Courtesy of NASA
Bottom photo: John A. Spider's web taken in front driveway

Monday, 27 December 2010

CHRISTMAS DAY 2010 - Part 2 of 2: tree-dom

There are trees in the town, trees atop buildings;
Trees in our homes and that of our neighbours.

Alastair and Ishie play under their tree on Christmas Day.

Maggies entrance hall stand is a picture of red and green.

The wooden kist in the hall has a wee tree just for boaty people.

Our tree has its legacy of ornaments: Mary's cloth candy-cane, Mairi's glass candy-cane, Alastair's San Francisco tram and one of several IKEA Swedish felt angels. Our patch-work angel atop the tree is from Balmore Coach House many years ago when it had to be purchased to replace the (previous) pulverized white dove of peace. M-m-m-m ... a sign of the times?!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

CHRISTMAS DAY 2010 - Part 1 of 2: out for drinks

We had a lovely Christmas Day with friends and family this year. After Iain and I got the car de-iced we headed off for a quick stop to see Mairi and John and wee ones before heading off with Mairi (John kindly offered to hold the fort for us) to have drinks with Maggie and Bryan and family/guests.

The path to their gate to the front door was a scene from a Christmas card!

Maggie's garden always is a joy to the eye and no more so than when it is showing its winter berries next to her pot which normally has a colourful display in growing season.

Everyone was pleased to that Iain is recovering from his fall last June. That, combined with the presence of the newly engaged couple made for a jolly mid-day gathering. J's parents had traveled north with some English champagne (which must be called 'sparkling wine') which they can buy easily as they live on the Kent-Sussex border where it is produced. Apparently in blind tastings it rates highly against French champagne. Very nice! ... and was just lovely with Maggie's savoury selection hot from her kitchen. Mairi enjoyed meeting up with the young ones and admiring J's diamond engagement ring.

But look what we saw when we left the house mid afternoon to return to John back at base camp - 4 deer standing on the edge of Milngavie Road (opposite Mosshead Road junction) obviously hungry and a little bewildered.

While Iain who was driving waited for a gap in the traffic I simply held up my iPhone and ... I am amazed at the clarity of this shot. The drips on the windscreen, the marks on the road and finally the 4 deer are ALL in focus!

Friday, 24 December 2010


Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
This silly person was sitting
Alone with a mouse.

With Iain upstairs
His nose in a book
I am tracking* Santa
Go have a look!



* This is done by NORAD, i.e. the North American Aerospace Defense Command. They have been tracking Santa "every year since 1955, when a Sears store in Colorado accidentally printed Aerospace Defense Command's phone number, causing local children to dial the NORAD predecessor, asking for Santa." [Reference here.]

* * * LATER * * *

It isn't it?! Is it?! *

Two little people who put out fig rolls, a carrot for the reindeer and a glass of whisky for Santa!

* This is Mairi's photo taken out of the car window ... deer on the edge of the main Milngavie Road. See also December 26th blog.


Festive fare is something I quite enjoy over the Christmas season. I love anything strong-flavoured so you will always find me scoffing Stilton cheese and a glass of port, Christmas cake or pudding along with any really peaty whisky!

I also enjoy baking at this time of year and laying in the odd case of wine. But as I get older I have decided there are some things the shops simply do better than I, or indeed, some of my fellow baker-friends.

Here is one example: Marks and Spencers mince pies. Maggie served these the other night along with a glass of mulled wine - her own recipe - and whether it was the fact that we had just walked an hour in the cold afternoon to get to their house or the fine ideas that came from the wine ... but I really have never tasted better! So I went and bought myself a packet of them to have for my 4 pm sugar boost!

At the social gatherings this past fortnight mulled wine has been served quite often, probably because church halls, churches (well, Glasgow Cathedral) and community halls are struggling to get the heating up. (At Mairi's work they canceled their Christmas party as there was no heating in the gym where it was to be held.) Again, I have never tasted better than one group's Tesco Mulled Wine. So 6 bottles had to be put in the trolley to help things along these cold evenings!

All the lovely Christmas cards are rolling in. Ours get printed every year from Peter McA's artwork. This year we are really late because of change of printer and bad weather, I am afraid. They arrived yesterday so you will get yours eventually!

Lastly, the one other thing that is keeping up my Christmas spirits is Alexander McCall-Smith's book Love Over Scotland. If ever I get stuck on a desert island I hope that somewhere there will be stashed a trunk full of his wonderful books!

Thursday, 23 December 2010


When pipes freeze it means: drop everything and get the problem sorted. Mairi left the wee ones with Iain and I while she sorted out their holiday property in Perthshire. Guests were supposed to be arriving or, indeed, had already arrived having been decamped from other holiday accommodation because of frozen pipes.

Iain and I were up for it as we had, or at least I had, a Christmas tree to erect and decorate. Iain can't be bothered with all this tree palaver but I like it ... well, I would, wouldn't I?!!! So there was a lot of things to be getting on with and with 2 little helpers we had a busy day ahead of us!

The tree has been sitting outside our back door for a week and needed to be thawed out in the shower before hauling it into the living room.

This turned out to be a wonderful activity to fill an extremely cold afternoon with pre-schoolers. Ishie had all the fun of pulling out tree ornaments from my collection of many years. These ornaments all have a story ... or should that be 'history'? ... and I quite enjoy having a visit' with these bits and pieces that were mostly given to me or made years ago by our own children. Goodness I even have a plastic reindeer from my childhood ... from the days when plastic was a new material in the 1950s!

Ah, the work of Christmas can get all a bit much, can't it? Or maybe this is a male thing ... and I thinking back to my own childhood here!

Although the temperature is still -5 degrees below zero Centigrade, Alastair and I had a short break outside at mid-day when the sun was shining. We took bird seed to throw on the snow (which lasted 5 whole minutes) before he was off collecting sticks. You would not believe the amount of play one wee boy can get out of a stick!

Also the amount of play one nearly 4 year old can get out of a Kleenex box, shoe boxes, old Christmas cards is wonderful! Long spells with a felt pen mean peace and quiet for Grandma!

A woman's work is never done ... into the kitchen to bake bread. Lots of fun ... we baked brown bread with walnuts, the sort of thing Delia Smith suggests for Christmastime. Bill and Connie arrived in the middle of this so we were able to have coffee and toasted walnut bread as we had eaten all the other seasonal fare on offer!

The unseen face of Christmas baking!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Freezing weather has meant it is still a winter wonderland out there! Today I walked over to Mairi's to do a few hours of Granny Duty. This involves a walk through unpopulated section on this suburb to the northeast side of Glasgow. This was my route through what we call The Gut (grassy area with bushes between 2 built-up areas of houses):

Path through The Gap which comes out at Kilmardinny Loch.

Pass alongside the farmer's fields on my right and a small burn flowing on my left.

Trees at Kilmardinny Loch.

I left the children to walk the return route home, again passing beside the Loch. When I got there I found the sun, on this solstice day, just setting at 3:15 pm. I stopped to take some photos using my iPhone.

A couple of moments later I took another shot and then I continued on my way as it was -5 degrees Centigrade.

I had only gone 100 yards when I found a woman's wallet, with credit cards etc, lying on the path. I spent a short time looking around to see if anyone was hurrying back searching the path for their lost item. Eventually I headed off after trying a couple of phone numbers (unsuccessfully) in the wallet. There was no identification.

I got home still with the wallet in my pocket and after wolfing down a couple of mince pies I walked down the hill to the Milngavie police station (at the bottom of our street!) and handed it in.
* * * *

In case someone is searching the web this may be of help:

Lost item found at Kilmardinny Loch 3:15 pm December 22, 2010. Claim at Milngavie Police Station!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


Our televisions continue to feature the bad weather stories which are affecting the south-east of the UK and also the Welsh valleys. This is now the end of our second week of freezing temperatures. After an initial large snowfall at peak travel times, things have scaled down to 'merely' snow flurries or freezing fog. The airports in Scotland are open and functioning this week but Heathrow which normally moves 180,000 passengers a day is really having problems with planes covered in snow and ice and only one of its two runways open.

This is a small island and it certainly brings home the fact that goods and people have to be first of all imported (if not produced here) and then for those of living north of the major ports and airports moved about the country by road or rail. Both have been badly disrupted. So I was mighty relieved to see this big truck pulling into the loading bay of our local supermarket, Tesco's. The shelves are not empty but we are all mindful that our food supply in this big city all comes up the motorway from somewhere else.

Believe it or not this is a big supermarket where I shop. It is the approach to the side of the front entrance of Tesco's. I tend to park in the smaller eastern car park and also happens to be adjacent to the Milngavie British Rail train station. It was a stunning day today when I was out doing the Christmas shopping (as more severe weather is forecast).

The Allander which flows below the bridge to the main entrance of Tesco's was icy cold as the temperature has been -3 to -5 degrees Centigrade all day... in fact, all week!

And lastly this is the British Rail car park - lovely to look at, a sheet of ice between the main entrance and exit roadway.

Monday, 20 December 2010


Mairi and I went to a concert last night at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. She had bought 2 tickets from her friend who was in the Glasgow City Choral Society whose night it was. They were giving us an evening of singing along with the Scottish Opera Orchestra who provided the snazzy instrumental stuff.

It was a good evening if a little long. As is so often the case they feel they have to sing every song in their repertoire!

However at the end of the evening we all sang our different parts to "A Partridge in a Pear Tree" throughout the large auditorium and then pulled Christmas crackers.

Here is one of the Christmas crackers jokes:

* * *
The primary class had been told to draw a scene representing the flight into Egypt. One little tot proudly displayed a drawing of a jumbo jet containing the three members of the Holy Family - but also a fourth figure. "When I said 'flight' I didn't quite mean a jet-plane." said the teacher. "I can see Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, but who is the fourth person on the plane?" ... to which the little one replied ... "That's Pontius Pilot!"
* * *

Alastair has taken a shine to this bear who resides in our house to the point of rigging him up with sunglasses. Here is Panda wishing he was either in Egypt or in Teneriffe like our next door neighbours! This elderly couple have got the energy crisis completely sussed: they set the heat on in their house at a comfortable 70 degrees or so therefore no burst pipes - as I am in daily checking - then head off for a week in the sun. No snow, no ice except in their Barcadies.


Another year, another Christmas concert at Glasgow Cathedral. I go every year and this year was no exception. It was almost going to be an exception because the weather continues to make me think twice about moving about on the sidewalks (oops that is North American) ... I mean pavement (the area on the side of the street where you are supposed to walk) and pavement (oops again same reason) ... I mean road.

Anyhow where was I?

Everything is icy, icy. And then it snowed at mid-day making difficult to know whether it was going to go on for the rest of the day and/or evening.

I wanted to go as it is my music teacher who conducts the choir and it is a good chance to sing lots of carols. To make things easier for myself and also take the worry of how I was going to get home later, I booked a B&B for myself (Iain wasn't interested) at Babbity Bowsters, a pub which has 8 rooms and happens to be (a) 4 blocks from the Cathedral and (b) our regular haunt from the days of Iain being at Stathclyde Uni.

What a good move that turned out to be! I arrived early afternoon, met up with the owner and his wife and a few other folk who were getting out their fiddles for a session by the fire. After more chat and a short snooze in my room I had a proper meal and then headed up the High Street for the concert.

The Victorian statues around the Cathedral were given a lift by the light snow that had fallen on them. Here is an arty shot of Normal MacLeod, chaplain to Queen Victoria in 1957 (among other things).

The Cathedral was full, thank goodness, because it helps warm up the vast space. The only problem was the freezing cold draft from high up meant one's head got colder and colder! I always wear a large cashmere shawl that Iain got me many years ago so this functions as a draft excluder when the north wind finds its way through the stained glass windows!

Never mind ... I knew I only had to hike back slither back the 4 blocks to a blazing fire and a warm bed up on the second floor!

Saturday, 18 December 2010


Ishie, nearly 4 years old, and Alastair, nearly 3 years old attend a local playgroup whose Nativity concert was on this week. The committee of mums and the play leaders are a very active and imaginative group. It takes a lot of work to mount this type of production.

It also seems that playgroups these days have to work to some guide lines. For example, there had to be something in the concert that was chosen by the children. So they made it the selection of songs.

Here is a Shepherd in a white shirt who sat for a very long time most patiently. I was very impressed as it was a bit on the long side for little people.

Ishie was an Angel in the back row, with the tinsel on her halo'd head. She was a bit bemused by the whole thing! Still it is quite something to be up on a stage looking out and not able to see a familiar person in the sea of faces out there!

Whatever the little ones do it is always a joy! They even have a mum (French speaking) who teaches them French nursery tunes with actions.

No Christmas production can be complete without a Christmas tree - on the side of the stage. It made the hall very pleasant as we milled about chatting and enjoying our coffee and mince pies.

Friday, 17 December 2010


The windscreen wipers and the schoosher on my car stopped working the other night. Iain had a look at the problem and deduced, correctly, that it was something to do with the electrics, namely, the fuse.

Despite searching along the dashboard, reading the manual, asking Bill who owns a similar car, he could not locate the fusebox.

I thought to myself "Before I phone our nice garage man, Alan B. let's see if there is anything on the internet."

Yes! This young man's excellent site here had the answer and also a diagram*of the fuse layout. So to do my bit for Skoda Fabia owners who could be forgiven for tearing their hair out trying to find the fusebox, I wish to post this photo below and provide some key words that hopefully will come up quickly for the car owner who has the same problem.

The fusebox in a Skoda Fabia tdi 2002 car (UK car with right hand drive) is located in the farthest extremity of the right-hand panel of the dashboard. It is mounted behind a smooth panel which faces the driver's wing mirror on the outside of the car. This means that it is a right angles to you when you are sitting in the driver's seat. There is a notch at the bottom to get it off. Can't see it? You won't unless you open the door!

If the windscreen [window] wipers are not working, replace the Number 15 fuse which is for the front wipers and the Number 32 for the back wipers.

The reason for this (well-known) problem in this type of car ... freezing temperatures ... fuse blown when try to use wipers.
___________________________________ And later ......

I found a bigger diagram: Diagram of fusebox layout

Thursday, 16 December 2010


It rained last night just as I was coming home from the Bearsden Burgh Choir concert in New Kilpatrick Church. The good news was that it was rain and not snow as the temperature was a balmy +5 degrees Centigrade. The bad news was that my windscreen wipers and scoosher wouldn't work. However I have been on the internet today and found the problem is that they were frozen. More on this anon as Iain still has to fix them.

Overnight the temperature went down to - 4.8 degree Centigrade so all that rain turned to ice. Having caught up on the chores I decided to stay inside today and to that end did a test bake of some sausage rolls (using Christmassy sausage meat stuffing for the filling and store-bought roll-out flaky pastry).

Both Bill and Adam arrived for morning coffee so the rolls were pretty well polished off! This exercise is my attempt to Christmas bake NOT using sugary sweet stuff. I love mince pies, fruit cake, candied fruit but lately I am staying off this stuff for dental reasons, i.e. with gum recession I am more prone to tooth decay as there is no enamel at the gum border. Iain never eats this stuff anyway and Mairi is very mindful of the kiddies eating sweet stuff; they simply are not in the habit of it.

Afterward coffee time Iain headed out to Edinburgh to a meeting about Scotland's Energy Policy. Yes, he is still spending much of his time on the phone and the internet trying to solve the World ... the UK ... Scotland's energy crisis position!

Meanwhile I am solving the energy crisis in our house by finishing the painting. You know how it is: 90% of a job gets done but that last 10% takes 90% of the time (and effort)!

Not one of my favourite chores but it was helped by two things: a glass of mulled wine and Classic FM radio playing Christmas carols and other Christmas music of the cathedral or college choirs of England. Lovely. I can conduct Hark the Herald admirably perched on a ladder.

I finished the painting to Silent Night, and yes, All is [now] calm; all is bright. Time to open the lovely mail that daily arrives. I love getting cards so I settle down to a bowl of squash and butter bean soup that I made earlier and the last of the mulled wine.

Sunday, 12 December 2010


It is Sunday and time to gather my wits. The snowy weather combined with low temperatures put many of our (and everyone else's) activities on hold this week. It certainly highlights the important things in life: food, shelter, water. It was difficult getting to the shops, the heating had to be kept on in our houses as many people had frozen pipes. Yes, we had frozen pipes upstairs in the bathroom but Iain caught the problem quickly. He put a fan heater in the roof space (as the pipe was not lagged) and thawed out the ice in the pipe leading to the upstairs bathroom. So much for his energy conservation efforts!

After 2 days of thaw (thank goodness for the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, here on the west coast the the British Isles!) life is returning to normal but more cold and snowy weather is forecast for the coming week.

I headed off to Anne's for a visit. Here is where we sit in the summer sun. St Germaine's Loch is frozen and there are no coots or ducks to be seen.

The sun was low in the sky at 3 pm. In ten days it will have reached its lowest point and begin to come up again. (Actually, apparently, that is not strictly true; there are a few days after the solstice that the sun sinks and then it starts to rise again.)

Leaves in Anne's garden.