Sunday, 31 January 2010


Wee Alastair is 2 this coming week so a birthday party was held as a Joint Venture with the little fellow, James, next door.

Mairi rigged a Brio Train on a chocolate cake with the 2 very important candles.

This boy just loves diggers. There were plenty of toys to play with at the party. While keeping an eye on a couple of little fellows in the play-room I had the wonderful experience of being sorted out on how to assemble a fork-lift truck. A little 3 year old showed me how I had the lift part the wrong way round! There I was trying to put the 2 lifting prongs into the front of the truck instead of the having them facing outwards as, of course, they should be!

Ishie was sporting her new outfit from Auntie Dawn and Alastair. That is definitely her colour.


It's Burns Season again. Although it is officially January 2th, the date of the birth of Robert Burns, it isn't always possible (or desirable) to hold events on that night so various types of gatherings take place when halls can be booked and musicians or performers lined up.

While proper Burns Night is a formal sit-down meal many people modify this and have a ceilidh or concert format. In our experience it usually includes recitations, singing (Burns songs) and dancing.

So we spent a pleasant evening in Bowling Village Hall where the Bowling Harbour Ceilidh Band were holding a Burns Evening.

There is no show without Punch, as they say. So while the band, i.e. Peter (with whom we share our boat), Ken and Alan started the evening with some songs and pieces for dancing, Iain gave everyone a tune on the pipes (giving the band time for a break).

Peter enthralled everyone with Tam o'Shanter - he's been doing it for 40 years! - and after some more dancing, he recited the Toast to the Haggis. This is Iain piping it in with Peter who is carrying it around the room on a tray.

Peter has for many years done Burns Suppers, in Scotland and also many countries abroad (mainly the old Soviet Union where they are very keen on Burns). Here he is reciting Holy Willie's prayer. Every year he just gets better and better!

Finally the evening finished off with the band playing for more dancing: Peter on the guitar, Ken on the whistles and recorder and Alan on the accordion, concertina and harmonica.

Saturday, 30 January 2010


Yellow is a welcoming colour and no more so than the view of these crocuses on the window sill in the front room (and therefore are on the left of the main entrance to the block).

These bulbs that I planted some months ago are giving us pleasure now as they begin to flower. While we have plenty of green in our maritime climate, and while the days are starting to lengthen, there is an absence of colour.

The sun is getting higher and is starting to shine more directly into the main living room. The flowers seem to love it!

I wonder if, according to William Wordsworth, a flower "enjoys the air it breathes.."?

In the middle of his well-known poem Lines Written in Early Spring (1798) he states:

"... 'tis my faith that every flower 

Enjoys the air it breathes ...."

However, the whole poem is really about how "... much it grieved my heart to think what man has made of man". Poor Wordsworth! What would he think of the world situation if he were alive today?


Sandy, our neighbour, is doing his very best to learn how to use a computer. He goes to classes at the library where patient tutors guide wanna be silver-surfers through the steps. He uses a PC and finds that it is complicated and crashes when he hits the wrong button. However, he is now making headway with composing and sending emails.

When telling me about his progress today he reminded me of the time I tried to help him when he was just starting out. We managed to open up his mail box and I was telling him about how important it was to not open emails that looked suspicious (e.g. with the word Viagra in the subject) or where you did not know where they came from.

I was driving home this very important lesson when I noticed he had an email in his INBOX which had the subject "Greetings from Kissimmee". I gasped and said "Sandy! Look! Here is one that you mustn't open. Delete it right away!" He looks at me rather woefully and states "But that is from our friend! It's where she lives in Florida!"


Photo: Der bittere Trank [The Bitter Drink] by artist Adriaen Brouwer, 17th century Flemish painter, pupil of Frans Hals. Wikipedia.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


Today we attended a funeral, locally, of a man in the Clyde Cruising Club who we had known both through sailing and through his profession as a civil engineer. It was - everyone agreed - a good send-off. The eulogy was quite long and full of funny stories all of which we in the sailing fraternity could relate to.

Iain and I both had our stories:

Iain recalls being at a CCC committee meeting some years ago and noticed this man who was sitting beside him was in a business suit but had mud on his shoes. "He could only be an engineer." Spot on!

I recently bumped into this man as he stood on the Helensburgh street front leaning on his bicycle while he talked to a lady who minds the china shop. Both were gazing out to sea watching a man rowing a small wooden boat in the direction of the pier. The lady was concerned about him as he had set off from Rhu Marina 2 hours ago and should have arrived by this time. Upon asking who he was it turns out he was a salty dog of great age who had spent many years at sea. I reckoned there was not much reason to worry!

Deja Vu

Mingling with the departing crowd as we made our way out through people waiting to enter for the next crematorium service, I caught a waft of good ol' Dewars (whisky)! It took me back to the days of attending funerals in Gairloch, Achilitbuie and Lochawe where there was always the strong smell of mothballs mixed with Dewars!

Monday, 25 January 2010


Two lovely people have been in touch and I know why ... today is Burns Night. As we are going to a Burns Evening next week today's date had passed me by. (Actually, Iain is away at a funeral in the north of Scotland - Ahhh ... the last of his parents' generation have now gone - that makes us the front end of the train!)

Where was I?

Oh yes ... The Bard. Well, as several people are raising a glass this evening in other parts of the world I feel I had better come up with something!

Actually, it started me thinking: Burns often wrote verse on the spur of the moment. Or maybe it was a case of Needs Must. Anyhow, here goes! (I wonder what he would have made of the internet and, more particularly, blogging? It is a long way from the pen and quill! )

I blog this night
Which is of Burns;
He would approve I'm sure.
He had a Muse;
I have a Dram -
Good Health to You and Yours!
(Or as they say in these parts: Slàinte Mhath [slɑːndʒə ˈva] )

Post Script:

My fountain pen:
Has failed its MOT.
It is suffering from old age (and decrepitude)
Like me.

Was at hand
In the form of The Pen Shop,

A new reservoir

Is free-flowing
On quality


For what it's worth:

The whisky is Bailie Nicol Jarvie. Why? I like the label (and have happy associations with it). Does it (still!) have BNJ whisky in it? Well, uh-h-h... no.... When the bottle was finished I couldn't bear to throw it away and so I filled it with a bottle I happened to have in the cupboard. I can't remember what kind it was but it was good stuff! And it tastes better for it!

The painted card (showing Seol-na-Mara in Norway) is Peter's card to us at Christmas, i.e. Peter supplies the artwork and I get a number of them printed in black and white (by Crosbie's with whom I work) at Christmastime.

Pen and Ink: The rectangular cards "Zurna and Fiddle" are ones I had printed, again by Crosbie's. I bought one of John Gahagan's paintings: zurna and fiddle along with the jug of whistles and brushes - all of which have a story.

The pen I have had for many years; I use it all the time.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


Ishie (3 years old) made me laugh yesterday. I had both of the wee ones out for the morning while Mairi and Iain did some chores. We went to Joe's shop first, then headed for the swing park at Kilmardinny. Not long after we arrived she needed to have a pee-pee. She is very good at the toilet routine but here in the park on a cold day we had a problem.

Well nothing for it, but we headed over the the edge of the grass and it was down with the water-proof pants, down with the trousers and lastly the underpants. As she was performing (admirably) she looks up at me and comments "This is what you have to do when you're desperate!"

Oh boy! Tell me about it! Wouldn't life be so much easier if we females were anatomically constructed so that when caught short it wasn't such a palaver!

Or better still, we could adapt a different form - anything to simplify things!


Images from here (these are photos found in a collection bought in a flea-market!)

Friday, 22 January 2010


As I am now spending more time in the car (the builders having arrived yesterday therefore we have de-camped permanently back to Helensburgh) I got an audio book out of the library to help me pass the time on the Milngavie-Helensburgh journey. Reception on the radio as one nears Helensburgh virtually disappears (on BBC Radio 4).

I make no apology for judging a book by its cover. My eye caught this! I have tried to read A S Byatt before and faltered early on - odd for me as I like what other people call 'heavy' books. Well ... I started listening to, and am really enjoying, this mega-audio book of 28 (!) CDs.

It is all about a family, in England late 1890s to end of WW1, whose mother, the central character, is a teller/writer of fairy stories. What is emerging (as I have only just started) is that this is going to be about the Arts and Crafts Movement as well as how literary folk are often closely associated with socialist movements.

However, leaving aside the (dense!) story, what's the story of this cover? (That is the audio book case cover above.) Sourcing the image set me off-at-a-Google-tangent!

It seems that this image is a piece of jewellery. "Dragonfly woman [female torso and griffin claws] corsage ornament (1897–1898). Gold, enamel, chrysoprase, moonstones, and diamonds." (1) It was made by glass artist and jeweller René Lalique (1860–1945) and was owned by wealthy Armenian collector Calouste Gulbenkian in whose museum [Lisbone, Portugal] it now resides (see below).

The above photo was taken by a member of the public. (2) I can't figure out the size! As a corsage, it looks extremely big! I see it has hinges on the wings.

I spent ages looking at other jewellery (and glass) by this amazing man here . And that lead me to see the role that Sarah Bernhardt played in all of this.

Lalique was "introduced ... to Sarah Bernhardt in the mid-1890's. [He] then began designing spectacular stage jewelry for Bernhardt, whose flair for the dramatic influenced his creative design for years.

It is believed that Lalique's friendship with Bernhardt introduced him to Calouste Gulbenkian, an art collector from Lisbon. Gulbenkian's enthusiasm for Lalique's talents became the chance of a lifetime for the artist. Gulbenkian's commissioning of 145 jeweled objects made him Lalique's major patron from 1895 until about 1912. Free of financial concern and able to design at will, Lalique entered the most creative period of his jewelry career. Gulbenkian's collection today is the biggest repository of Lalique's art." (3)

(1) Website here.

(2) Website is here.

(3) Website here.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


Snowdrops are the best flower in the whole calendar probably because they are the first to emerge after the cold winter. Normally we start to see them around early February but in the last 10 or so years they have been coming in the third week of January. This year they will be later because of all the cold weather we have had. Today I noticed that they are starting to show in the sunnier locations e.g. under trees and along banks.

This coming weekend I am planning to spend time with Ishie (3) and Alastair (2 in 2 weeks) while the Work Party gets on with various chores. The children are getting bigger now so it is possible to have little walks looking for things hidden under bushes or lying on the ground. We always find something!

Ishie loves to tell you about her day; she chatters non-stop. She also loves rhyming sounds, nonsense jokes and stories. So, as she is keen on Tinkerbell, I thought we might go looking for fairies - Tinkerbell? - in the garden and in the park where there are snowdrops starting to flower. I plan to print out this photo that I created - remember the Cotingley Fairies (here) - and use it as the basis for a story that we can create together. We always manage to do something no matter how short or banal. (I start and make her add the characters or develop the plot. Teddy Bear usually figures in it somewhere!)

I had forgotten that Tinkerbell comes from J M Barrie's Peter Pan. It seems I might not be looking in the right place ... "because you see They live in nests on the tops of trees; and the mauve ones are boys and the white ones are girls, and the blue ones are just little sillies who are not sure what they are."*


* James Matthew Barrie (Peter Pan, Chapter 17)

Saturday, 16 January 2010


It has been a really bad week with temperatures sitting just under freezing. That meant that the snow has been lying for upwards of 3 weeks. The big problem, really, is ice. Everthing is frozen. The main streets are cleared or treated with salt; the side streets, alleys, paths, car parks, lanes are not. The only non-slip place to walk, if walk you must, is down the centre of the road.

However, the temperature is slowly rising today and the white stuff is starting to go. I must say, I have never been so glad to see the rain, i.e. the stuff falling out of the sky in liquid, not solid, form. Our prevailing weather comes from the south-west. It is wet and mild. The last 3 weeks have seen the weather coming from the east and north-east.

The only thing to do when stuck inside is to get into the kitchen. So I made marmalade. (I did go out last week to get milk for my neighbour and oursleves. While slowly negotiating icy steps in the local park en route to Tesco's my feet went from under me and down I went on my bum. However, I was low down and had plenty of padding on which to land, therefore did not suffer any damage. It did, however, make me 'fearty' - afraid!)

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


If you think you have problems, spare a thought for these poor sheep. The first photos is one of John's taken last weekend. The second is one that is on the internet from '' but see note below.

There are more photos of snow-upped people, cars and animals should be in Winter in Bruch but I cannot get it to open.


John has been away to the mountains north of Glasgow. He set off to climb a mountain with the intention of camping in his one-man tent on his way up the previous evening. The weather was about -9 degrees Centigrade in Glasgow so the glens would be about the same; the tops would be much colder especially if the wind was blowing.

He spent the night here in his tent inside his 2 duvet sleeping bags. We were all in our wee beds in Glasgow with the central heating still on over night.

It was another day of blue skies and snow everywhere - a great day to be out with the camera!

Snow bridge in the glen.

My favourite of all his photos.

Monday, 11 January 2010


This lovely amaryllis started flowering at Christmastime and just goes on and on. The snow lies on the ground outside, the ice is everywhere but this bit of colour provides a wonderful contrast.

The pot is resting on a brown hand painted plate from Bulgaria that was a gift from Dave and Judith when they had been 'doing Europe' about 30 years ago.

The petals are getting so heavy that I have had to cut the stems and keep them in a vase of wtaer. The sun continues to shine; the temperature has been just below (or well below) freezing all week!

Monday, 4 January 2010


Today we gathered and Mairi and John's for a quick lunch before heading off to the cinema. Our Man in Vancouver was involved in the development of the software which was used in character animation for the Disney 3 D film A Christmas Carol.

We got tickets for the matineé at the Glasgow Science Centre. What a wonderful building! Located on Pacific Quay it is very child-oriented and has a wonderful location on the River Clyde. It had exactly the same feel as the big domed Science Centre in Vancouver.

The display of Lego was of much greater interest to the kids. They were very good through the film for being so young. The rest of us coped reasonably well with the loud decibel level and in-your-face flying cartoon figures. By that I mean I had my eyes shut for only 1/4 of the time instead of the usual 3/4 of the time!

This Lego Man reminded me of (big) Alastair's youth in the 80's when he spent hours assembling kits usually with electronic gismos to make them go.

We resolved to go again but hopefully the car park will not be a sheet of ice and the ducks will be swimming in the frozen water feature at the main door.


Later ... as we are on the subject of animation:

I noticed something really neat with the Google logo today. It is animated! The apple falls from the first "O". Oh, very clever!
Why? It is Isaac Newton's birthday today, He was born January 4, 1643 in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, England. Just to clear up confusion: at the time of his birth England had not adopted the Gregorian calendar and therefore his date of birth was recorded as Christmas Day, 25 December 1642.

Why was he under the tree in the first place? He had been trying to understand how the moon stayed in orbit around the earth and reasoned that it was by the same force that caused the apple to fall to earth.

And finally, it seems that this is the first time Google has used an animated logo. I think Newton would be impressed!

Saturday, 2 January 2010


We popped down to Bowling Basin to give Peter his sailing cruise log prize (a trophy and 2 wine glasses). He wasn't aboard his boat - probably having a New Year swally with his neighbouring live-aboards.

Bowling Basin is frozen over as is the water on the finger pontoons and the quayside. The River Clyde beyond looks cold and was empty of any traffic - not even the sludge boat was to be seen.

At least the kids have been down making the most of the snowfall of a week ago.