Monday, 31 May 2010


Our neighbour on our south side was working in her garden today - another lovely summer's day. She said to me over the fence ... somewhat hesitantly ... "Uh, excuse me ... but what is that big black tent-like thing in your back garden? It looks like a crime scene where the forensic people are looking for a body in the garden!" (Especially with fork and shovel sitting there!)

No, it is a pile of polythene blocks which are going to be used to insulate the house. The panels are to be secured to the 4 outside walls then a mesh goes over them and lastly they are finished with a coat of roughcast plaster.

Meanwhile the little vegetable plot is coming on a treat! We are going to be eating lettuce as of today ... along with some radishes. There are 3 varieties of lettuce - cos, oak leaf and rocket. In the upper left there is a row of sweet peas planted along the edge with bamboo canes for them to climb up.

This is the rocket and it has a real peppery taste which I particularly like. The radishes I pulled were small, hard and tasteless! Oh well, once they come out I will replace the row with some cabbage seedlings which I have in growing in 2 seed trays.

Sunday, 30 May 2010


We visited St Andrews this weekend as it was the Annual Outing for the structural engineers who come with their wives to meet and greet and, of course, have a round of golf.

The town was fairly quiet except for groups of men, in foursomes, moving about looking for somewhere to have a meal after their day on the links. It is a student town; some were about but mostly it was fairly empty of people after 6 pm on Saturday.

The buildings are mostly of gray stone and at this time of year the irises were blooming in the various gardens of the University of St Andrews.

These photos of irises made a good subject to do some arty stuff using Photoshop. I like the colour combination.

Thursday, 27 May 2010


Given that my Main Approach to life is:

Those Who Can, Do

I would like to offer the following corollary:

Those Who Cannot, Comment

Having been out to dinner twice in one week I have had dined somewhat over my tolerance level on dinner table conversation of Those Who Know.

While I thought I was inventing a new word for such people it seems the word exists already: The Commentariat. It originally referred to media commentators but I would put it more broadly as anyone who makes comments on news, politics, the state of the economy, what their neighbours are doing etc.

Wikipedia refers to this group of people as The Chattering Classes:

"The chattering classes is a generally derogatory term often used by pundits and political commentators to refer to a politically active, socially concerned and highly educated section of the "metropolitan middle class" especially those with political, media, and academic connections. ... Indeed, the term is used by people all across the political spectrum to refer to the journalists and political operatives who see themselves as the arbiters of conventional wisdom."

Too right! And arbiters of style and taste in All Matters!

I guess the world needs these people; it just seems there are more per square mile than there used to be! Ahem ... of course, anyone who writes on a blog must certainly add to the density....!


Photo: blackbirds in the trees in our back garden, late October.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

John and Mairi and the family were staying at Dunira (Perthshire) this weekend. John took some lovely photos. The weather continues to be sunny which is bringing all trees into their new green foiliage.

Ben Vorlich and Stuc a'Chroin

Edinample Castle and distant Beinn Eich

Dunira - trees coming out in leaf

Dunira - evening colours

Sunday, 23 May 2010


Mairi took this photo of John and the 2 babes last week. I think it is a terrific picture!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


There are lots of old buildings, old walls and gravestones in Millport so I spent the morning exploring the area including old cow lanes up the back of the town.

Bluebells behind the Celtic cross.

A solitary dandelion.

Wild garlic.
Time to chance to catch up on some reading.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Sunday I headed down the Clyde to a seaside town called Millport. Located on an island off Largs I knew I would have no trouble getting there as the Cal-Mac ferry (10 minute journey) would not be bothered if an ash cloud was paying us (another!) visit!

It was glorious weather with blue skies and sea all weekend! The leaves are all out now and the countryside and coast are just glorious.

I was impressed to see from the ferry crossing that the water is clear. Believe me, I remember days when it was really pretty yukky out there. No more. They have installed sewage works up and down the Clyde and it has improved the quality of the water and the shoreline immensely!

Although the town still has the look of having seen better days (when everyone headed here for their summer holidays) the promenade was clean and tidy and the parks department had this fine show of flowers next to the many park benches along the sea-front.

Sunday morning at low tide - Millport Harbour.

Time to play with the Photoshop technology! This is the same photo but as an 'arty' cut-out.

Monday, 17 May 2010


There is nothing nicer than tulips! Our burgh garden men/women have got the planters full of bulbs and they are now in full bloom. When the heads are not being pulled off by the local neds here is what they look like.

If they look like a painting, I can assure you they are not! This photo is the result of a quick click using my iPhone - amazing technology!

Again, not a painting but an iPhone photo taken of the planter at the bottom of our road next to the play park on Milngavie Road.

Lastly a proper painting done in the 17th century when the Dutch were starting up the trade in tulips. It is Two Tulips [an Armiant and a Mester del Camp], a Shell and an Insect. Watercolour and body colour on parchment by Jacob Marrel (1613/1614 – 1681), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Everyone has a story. Some are better than others at telling them. Some get written down and even get published. When a well-told story comes along, one that resonates, it is a pure joy!

This book, A Fortunate Life by A. B. Facey, was sent to a friend of ours from her sister in Australia. It is in the form of 10 CDs and is read by an Australian, Roger Cardwell. It is absolutely outstanding both in content and delivery! (The book is available on Amazon; I see from the web that it is describe as an autobiographical novel.)

Set in Australia it is the story of an "ordinary" man's life mainly in the early days of settlement in Western Australia (early 1900s). Born in 1895 he lived a long life, and a very hard life. Late in his life his family encouraged him to put his stories down on paper. Then with some work, it was put together as a book.

He was born in 1894 and died 9 months after the book was published in 1981. He was a person who simply got on with life despite difficult times or situations. Working on the land, clearing sites for settlement, working on farms, he never had any schooling. Eventually, when he was in his early 20s, some Scottish settlers he met gave him help to learn to read and write (by lending him books).

However, what really interested me was that his story is not dissimilar to many people who lived in Western Canada at that time. They faced hard times as they arrived in a land where they had to establish a place to live, get work and get through the winter.

My father (born 1919) left school at 14 to help with the farm work. In these small communities away from the big cities people spent their lives clearing land, building houses, getting crops and farms established. In my father's case it was an orchard farm.

This book also highlighted how tough it was for women - getting water, dealing with accidents and illness, feeding families in the Depression. Yet they made a life for themselves ... and felt very fortunate that they were able to do so!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Winter is truly behind us when the country is covered in blossom - apple, cherrry and plum - in suburban streets, church yards, parks and gardens.

New Kilpatrick Church yard, Bearsden Cross

Church of Scotland, Balfron

Monday, 10 May 2010


A Very Special Pooch has been in touch today. Ah, the power of the internet. This dawg is good at emailing (though he may not look it on first inspection). His owners live in Vancouver and I am assured he is definitely Top Dog on the Totem Pole! (Come to think of it most dogs - in the families I have known - are!)

* * * * *

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Time out for a cultural weekend to mark the run up to the passing of another year for me!

Mairi and John gave me the chicken watering can along with the irises. The card is from Bob and Kate and it is "just me"!

After morning coffe and scones (and exchanging our FT newspaper for his Sunday Times book reviews) with Bill this morning, I spent the day in the garden. At tea-time Iain and I enjoyed a barbecue meal with Mairi, John and gang after which I left early to attend this concert at Glasgow Cathedral.

As it has been literally months since I have been to a concert (I miss Helensburgh for that!) I really enjoyed this one! It was nice to meet a few folk that I knew plus several who were new to me. But the surprise of the evening was discovering this lass:


Wow! Can that gal play! She played the piano for the Beethoven Choral Fantasia and it was absolutely wonderful! There is very little on the web about her except that she is on the staff of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. No photos anywhere!

So I thought I would help things along by posting the programme notes:

"Anna Mavromatidi was born in Russia. She studied the piano at the State Saratov College of Music and the State Saratov Music Conservatoire, specialising in teaching accompaniment and chamber music. In 1996 her family moved to Greece where Anna taught and performed extensively. Anna's further education took her to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where she obtained her Postgraduate Diploma in Performance (Solo) in 2001 and a Masters Degree in Performance (Chamber Music) in 2002. Throughout her time at the RSAMD, Anna has been heavily involved with Chamber music. She has won numerous prizes and awards, including The John D Miles Prize (Accompaniment) and the The Ian D Watt Award (Chamber Music)."

Everyone agreed that the Cathedral was a wonderful place to hear this work. She fairly made the music soar sitting at the grand piano bringing to her playing all the freshness and vitally of youth!

Saturday, 8 May 2010


Ishie and I spent a very pleasant afternoon at Mugdock Park, Milngavie. The leaves are now coming out on the trees, the birds are busy about us and spring flowers are in full bloom!

Back home ... a real worker this one ... and I'm talking about Iain who is making an alteration to the path along the side of the house.

Thursday, 6 May 2010


Iain and I made an excursion to a small Lanarkshire town called Douglas today. While he collected a camper van for Alastair C. I went exploring:

St Brides Church with its churchyard of gravestones proved most interesting! The clock on the tower caught my eye. The story about this church here says "[The clock] is noted for chiming three minutes before the hour rather than on the hour itself: a reference to the Douglas family motto of Jamais Arriere, or "never behind". " (We could do with a clock like that around the house!)

I was intrigued by the inscription on the left hand side, of this Greenshields* family gravestone. Of particular interest was the name and description of the last one, i.e. James Thomas Douglas: The 3 names read (the photo is high resolution so you can zoom in on it):

In memory of
Robert Greenshields
of Brodie Creek East Falkland Islands
who died of wounds in Egypt
14th August 1916 aged 33 years

John William Douglas
of Brodie Creek East Falkland Islands
who died at Netherwood Newbury
28th July 1943 aged 59 years

James Thomas Douglas
of Useful Hill Station
Straits of Magellan
who died at Metropole Hotel London
20th February 1923 aged 34 years

Googling came up with this which sheds light on the location of Useful Station!

"William Alexander Blain ... met [a man] who engaged shepherds for the Falkland Islands Company and agreed £65 per annum, free passage and return after five years.... In 1884 he was invited by Thomas Greenshields to start up a sheep ranch at Monte Dinero in Patagonia.

Following Mr. Greenshields death, in 1889 Blain sold his own flock of sheep and accepted a job ... establishing a sheep ranch ... in northern Tierra del Fuego....

[In] William Blain’s papers ... [is] a daily diary ... which begins at Useful Hill, Patagonia ....

I wonder why it was "useful" and what is it called now? And how did James Thomas Douglas's life end at the Metrople in London?


* more information about the Greenshields of Falkland Islands is here describing the Scottish Malverinos.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


A small south-facing garden is much easier and more rewarding to manage than a north-facing one on a steep slope. And so it is that we have been laying out and planting in the garden. Iain has dug out the last of the old bushes; the beds have been cleared except where obvious plants are coming up e.g. rhubarb.

Monday, 3 May 2010


It's that time of year again. We're on the move. Iain has been beavering away to get the boat ready for the summer and this year he is really off his mark good and early!

Peter took her from Bowling to Rhu on Friday, then sailed up to Ardrishaig in preparation for us - en famille - to take her through the canal at the weekend.

Well, we had a great time! Here we all are!

Sailor Alastair (2 and a bit years) in the quarter-berth. Our boat is a Fastnet 34 Bermudan sloop "Seol na Mara". She has a port-hole in the stern which is a very distinctive feature of this boat (built in Skibareen and collected by us from south of England in 1980. So this is her 31st season.)

Grandpa is working the stern warp as the water lowers in the lock. Ishie (3 1/4 years) likes to have a job to do at whatever activity is taking place so here she is at the tiller. While Iain and John were changing the gas cylinder in the cockpit locker Ishie comes up from the cabin, peers over, and enquires, "Everything alright?" (She sometimes she chirps "Are you managing OK?" as one is on one's hands and knees struggling with something or other!!!)

Kiddie Heaven is a (sea water) pump in the sink. This is one place they can pump as much water as they like! (The fresh water pump is the metal, curved one.)

Laura joined us to help come through the canal. She's on the bow while John, who ran ahead to prepare the locks, and Iain and Ishie put their back into it as they prepare to leave the lock on the upwards bit of the trip (Cairnbaan).

Mairi is on the bank loosening her muscle-bounds shanks, as the song says! We are now approaching the west coast.

It's me ... I can be heard singing "Oh, it's the Crinan Canal for me! I don't like the deep rolling sea. Those big foaming breakers; they give me the shakers. The Crinan Canal for me!"

Finally we tie up in the upper lock at Crinan. Iain will be arriving next week with his French visitors who are going to head out west to explore the islands.

Laura is taking over the shift from Teddy Bear who - along with Grandma - is quite exhausted with the mini-sized crew aboard! However as the song says: