Tuesday, 30 November 2010


- Red berries -
(John's holly bush in the garden.)

- Red cheeks -
(An Alastair-Elf in the Garden)

- The red newsagent's stand -
(outside the gent's toilet, West Nile Street, Glasgow, today.)

Mailbox at Kessington shops opposite the Vet School

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Louise came to visit this weekend. Arriving by train from Inverness she made her own way here for an overnight visit. Then we headed out, on foot, Saturday morning, via the New Kilpatrick Coffee Morning, to go to town so that she could catch her train home again.

I felt I'd been away for the weekend once I returned home mid-afternoon. Walking back from Milngavie train station to our house I took these photos with my iPhone. I just caught the last of the afternoon light with all the kids out sledging.

This morning, Sunday, there was more snow on the ground. Out with the boots, the shovel by day and in by the fire by night. Heaven! Using the ordinary digi camera I took these shots of the whiteness.

Pots at the back door.

At mid-day it was still coming down ....

Monday, 22 November 2010


Alastair, who works in the film industry, sent me a link to a wonderful 10 minute video of a 3D film projection on to this fine building in Prague (details below).

They make a map of the building then they create a cinema projection on to the building using various animation skills. I was quite blown away by the whole presentation! When I looked on the internet there are other videos of this type of 3D mapping projection and they, too, are so very imaginative! (Sometimes it is referred to as 'architectural mapping projection' or 'video mapping'.)

Mapping during 600 years anniversary of the astrological tower clock situated at Old Town Square in center of Prague.

If you can't work the video click on this link.

The Macula (www.themacula.com)

Coworking animators:
Michal Kotek
Lukáš Duběda

data-live (www.data-live.cz)

Tomato Production (www.tomatoproduction.cz)

Sunday, 21 November 2010


If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video must be worth a million!

And furthermore ...

If writing is about putting down on paper what you know then lyrics for a singer are a place to start. One type of music in my childhood was what came out of our kitchen radio. The dial was always set to one station - CJIB radio Vernon, B.C. Looking back I see that the music was all Country & Western. Well ... that was just the way it was!

The man who wrote this song* had my father in mind. Whenever my mother lamented the cedar shakes coming off the house or a pipe leaking my father would respond with this ditty (the one and only that he knew):

* From Wikipedia, this piece of music is "a popular song by Stuart Hamblen published in 1954. It describes a house in a state of disrepair after its owner's death, and was inspired by a real-life house found by Hamblen and his friends while on a fishing trip... Hamblen intended this to symbolize the joy of the man's going to Heaven", i.e. it's basically a gospel song!

* * * * * * * *

There are numerous ways to create music! At this particular point in my life it comes from playing the piano. It is (but doesn't necessarily have to be) a solitary activity where one can lose oneself in the music and often, all sense of time. Nothing illustrates this better than the following video of a masterclass given in 2008 by Maria Pires, a pianist originally from Portugal. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall! However, thanks to the technology of the internet, we are all able to sit at the feet of the guru!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


Last month Mairi treated a friend and me to a massage in a local shopping mall in Glasgow. Having arrived early for our appointment we took time to enjoy a coffee in the mall's Starbuck's coffee bar. My eye fell on Starbuck's plastic coffee mugs which function as a holder for take-away coffee with a secure lid are the shape and size that could fit into a car cup holder.

This early morning arrangement is exactly what our Alastair does in Vancouver (or wherever he has lived) but what really attracted me to this carry-out coffee container was the fact that you could put your own picture in the exterior of it by slipping the paper in from the bottom.

So if you are looking for a Christmas present here is an idea: the Starbuck's container cost £6.99 as is shaped as in the above photo. You screw off the black base and prepare a photo (or whatever you use for a picture) to the size of the lime green template that sits inside the cylindrical wall of the container.

Here is the paper template ironed flat. I made a copy of it by tracing around the outside on to a plastic file folder. Then I cut it out.

Then I laid the plastic template on the photograph (one I took of the Duke of Wellington statue with its Glasgow humour in evidence.) All that is left to do is roll the photograph into a tube and slip it into the base and finish by screwing the base back on again. Done!

Monday, 15 November 2010


Off and on I come across examples of either products or processes that are, in my opinion, badly designed. Whether it is traffic flow, exits from buildings, coffee cups or equipment, I try to come to terms with my frustration by consigning them to a place in my head: "There is another candidate for My Book of Bad Design".

Before I go any further I must point out that I do have a matching (smaller) fanciful book-in-the-making: My Book of Good Design but, frankly, I don't see it ever seeing the light of day simply for lack of material.

So today is the day I have decided to try and pull some of this together. From time to time I will make posts of such items, processes or systems as a way of cataloging them all.

My first submission relates to childrens' drinking cups. The pink and blue ones in the foreground are ones I bought in Helensburgh last year and they are terrible for spilling. They were not cheap; the stack in the background are IKEA's. However the design problem is the same - they are unstable.

My husband who is a structural engineer tells me that for stability the base of the cup should be as big as possible and the centre of gravity should be as low as possible. Tapering the sides of the cup inwards from top to bottom violates 2 basic principles of stability:

[1] The base should be as wide as possible
[2] The centre of gravity should be as low as possible.

The tapered shape should be banned by the Health and Safety Executive, so he says!

Needless to say, the next time you spill a mug of coffee, look at its shape!

Sunday, 14 November 2010


Several weeks ago we ventured north - our first outing in 5 months - to join friends for a get-away weekend in Argyllshire. It was a glorious weekend and we certainly felt the better for the visit with old friends in such glorious surroundings. They had travelled down from the north and we spent the night booked into the Loch Leven Hotel on the north side of the Ballachulish Bridge. We all know how it could have been blowing a gale, but the sun shone the whole weekend!

Believe it or not, these photos I took over the weekend are completely 'undoctored'; they are presented 'as is'! They are all taken about 10 am on the shore of Loch Leven October 23.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


Last night we had a most pleasant ceilidh with 6 of our friends all of whom sail their own boats ... yacht type boats. They have all been out for long periods this summer - long trips, short trips, alone or with crew. The idea was, however, that the men help move, as Iain says "the scenery" before we could start the evening as the living room was bare of furniture due to the carpet being laid (at long last!). It was great to dust of the old tunes ... and lots of good craic* as they say in these parts.

So we now are finished the basics of the interior renovation of the house. Time to down tools and head out to Mugdock (moorland adjacent to Milngavie, on the edge of Glasgow) and enjoy the November afternoon sunshine.

Iain looking toward Ben Lomond down the Blane Valley. The Ben is shrouded in mist.

Blane valley with Dumgoyne and the Campsies on the left.

The autumn sunshine on the moor.

Craigallian Loch on Mugdock Country Park


* chat ... helped along with the music and the occasional dram

Thursday, 11 November 2010


I am seldom caught off-guard in social situations; I can usually find the right word, or extricate myself if things start getting awkward. Well, I nearly met my Waterloo recently when at the home of a pleasant, welcoming couple where a group of us were having meeting.

Once the business of the evening was over, tea and coffee were served where we had been sitting in the living room. Comfortably relaxed in a low armchair with a cup and saucer on my lap I was suddenly accosted by a low flying missile which ended up on my left shoulder! Now I am no shrinking violet but I was greatly alarmed! ... not having had much experience of this sort of thing!

It was a blue budgie, a very sociable bird who perched himself on the glass coffee table and, using its head, clanged the sugar spoon sticking out the of the sugar bowl up and down, up and down, while we ... uhh ... chatted.

I was definitely in need of a copy of Debretts. This book on (among other things) how to behave in social situations, I see has morphed into several different books these days. The book I could have done with is Debrett's Etiquette for Girls.

I really must find out ... do budgies like oysters?!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


I went to the hole-in-the-wall autobank to get some cash this week. I noticed that the machine I regularly use (Clydesdale Bank, Milngavie precinct) is new. A good sign as the old one was really tatty. However I was alarmed to see that when it displayed the bank balance the screen was a very bright white and the size of the numerals was very, very LARGE! Progress? Another candidate for my (over-stuffed Book of Bad Design!)

Never mind ... Brian E. sent me the following letter which is doing the rounds on the internet. (The photo is one I found in the New York Public Library website.)


An elderly lady actually wrote this letter to her bank. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in The Times and this [unknown to me ...] newspaper thanks him most sincerely.

Dear Sir,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three 'nanoseconds' must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it.

I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my Pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only thirty eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account £30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways.

I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, re-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.
From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan payments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

Be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Solicitor, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows:

1-- To make an appointment to see me.

2-- To query a missing payment.

3-- To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

4-- To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

5-- To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

6-- To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

7-- To leave a message on my computer (a password to access my computer is required. A password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorised Contact.)

8-- To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 8

9-- To make a general complaint or inquiry, the contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous, New Year.

Your Humble Client


Addendum from The Editor:

IMPORTANT to REMEMBER that this letter was written by a 98 year old woman.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Good news! Iain paid a visit to the hospital today to see the orthopaedic people as it has been 3 months since he came out of hospital after his fall from the upstairs ceiling. They are very happy with his progress and he has now been fully discharged. He left his brace behind and came home a very Happy Chappy!

He has been doing some circuit training around the neighbourhood marching up and down the streets including mounting a long set of stairs behind the MacDonald's burger platz down on Milngavie Road.

This week he went out to the Whangie - a rock feature near Loch Lomond - with Bill for a Test Country Walk for 1 1/2 hours. All went well, i.e. Bill just managed to keep up with him! When he leaves everyone behind he will be well and truly back to normal.

The next step is to get his bagpipes, the big ones, going. (He plays the electronic ones already.) We are having a ceilidh here this coming Friday so maybe the neighbours will get a taste of things to come, namely, a tune to bring in the bells at New Year!

Monday, 8 November 2010


Our young orchestra has now completed its season ending up with a concert last Saturday in Cairns Church in Milngavie. We begin when school starts the third week of August and finish pre-Christmas. We have found in the past (this is our 11th season) that the children have so much on during the Christmas season that it clashes with our own event. We start again next August. The good news is that there are plenty of other outlets in the city if kids want to keep going with their fiddle.

The orchestra rehearsing in the afternoon. We had a very good concert with a respectable turn-out of parents and friends. Dennis Haggerty and Andrew Nicol were the guest artists and give wonderful value for money! The church has a very nice ambience; chunky white candles are lit on the window ledges all along both sides of the church. I would say about 30 in all. Although we cannot dim the lights (otherwise the children couldn't read their music) the effect is very soft and pleasant.

A behind-the-scenes photo. One of our youngsters had pegs that kept slipping. And, I recall, another year, someone's bridge collapsed. So I got Mairi to bring her violin over and I got the strings sorted and made sure it was tuned in readiness for any emergency.

The girls wear Black Watch tartan scarves and the boys wear adult (not - heaven forbid! - boy's) ties which are also Black Watch. It is not possible to purchase the handkerchiefs for the girls anymore so nothing for it, I had to sew 3 scarves for our 3 newest and youngest members. This job is not onerous; I am a very happy sewer, particularly hand-sewing. M-m-m-m must get back to doing some more of this sort of stuff!

Oh ... the scones are cheese scones - a variation on a regular theme. When Mairi brought the fiddle over we enjoyed a pot of tea and lovely, fresh scones a la Anne B.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


This week my 92 year old aunt died. That is the last of my father's family now gone; a book closed.

It reminded me of when my mother died. Having been ill she was transferred from our local small town hospital to a bigger hospital, namely, Kelowna General Hospital, in central British Columbia. It was the third week of August 2003 and I had to travel by air from the UK, then Greyhound bus from Calgary and finally car to be at her bedside.

The bus-ride from Calgary was spooky as we drove west over the mountains through thick smoke of forest fires in the Jasper - Lake Louise area. I asked the bus-driver, a tall, fine looking native Indian with long braids falling down his blue Greyhound shirt, "Are we going to make it through this to Revelstoke OK? I'm heading for Kelowna and I am worried." "Dunno, lady. We'll just have to see how it goes." Quite so.

After arriving at my home town and having a night's sleep, the family members and I set off in the morning of August 22, south to Kelowna. Again, forest fires had been burning on the hillside around Kelowna and there was increasing alarm at the direction the fire was moving. A lightning fire had started a week earlier and due to several dry summers and high winds it had spread extensively. As we drove the 60 miles south we could see the smoke spreading northwards, up the Okanagan Valley, towards us. Though a hot, sunny day the sun was hidden by the clouds of smoke.

Pulling into the carpark of the hospital, located in the downtown area, grey ash was falling, covering the cars. Spooky! Although I couldn't see any flames I tried to quell the rising feeling of alarm; how far away was the fire?

My mother knew I was arriving. Entering the building and moving through the corridors the smell of smoke was still evident, strong and pungent. Once there, it was clear that life was ebbing away. Everyone remained throughout the afternoon just being quiet or singing quietly at the bedside. Then mid-afternoon just after we were notified that residents were being evacuated from threatened areas near the hospital she passed away.

After the formalities were taken care of we retraced our route again only this time it was evening. As we departed on the Okanagan Highway north we took a moment to look back towards the city and this photo shows what we saw:

In the distance we could see little fiery explosions jump from one tree to another across the hillside. We had to leave it behind; it was the end of a long day ... and, indeed, the end of a long life.

Photo: Kelowna Fire, 2003. Wikipedia.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


At Hallowe'en I decided to make brownies using a Betty Crocker cake mix but bake them as cupcakes using paper cupcake containers which I baked in a muffin tin. I have discovered cake mixes recently; I use them for the kids when we have a baking session. Their attention span is about 2 and 1/2 minutes so this method works just fine!

Well, when I took them out they were squidgy to the point of being slightly underdone.

A well appeared in each cupcake. I decided to be creative and fill the wells with white icing into which I placed a chocolate eyeball (chocolate ball covered in foil with an eyeball printed on it). I thought them rather clever!

After the guisers performed their party pieces I offered them these Treats... got the thumbs down all round - total rejection! Ah-h-h ... kids these days are just too fussy!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Last Sunday night - Hallowe'en - I invited neighbouring youngsters that I have got to know to come by as our grandchildren would be here dressed up ready for the doorbell to ring. It ended up being good fun and a great way to meet their mums and dads. (We all have similar style of houses so they were quite intrigued to see a slightly different variation on a theme ... as well as seeing the space in the ceiling where Iain fell!)

Mairi and John and the 2 wee ones forgathered here at 5 pm as arranged. Earlier in the day John was by with the 2 youngsters so we had a head-start on scooping out the pumpkin which was to be the fiery signal atop the front steps.

Alastair, 2 and 3/4 years, wants to be in on all the action which I usually reserved for Ishie, nearly 4 years, who is very co-ordinated and, as she says, "I have more sense in my head" [than Alastair]!

She and John made the face and once we put 3 of IKEA's tea-lights inside it was definitely a spooky work of art! Just as soon as the children were dressed up the doorbell started to ring with guisers (as they call them in Scotland) and as a result I completely forgot to take a photo of the finished face!

The custom is that everyone comes prepared to sing or recite their party piece before they are given their treat. Pumpkin Person Alastair and Princess Ishie are giving us their turn.

Pumpkin People, fresh out of the Pumpkin Patch, need to pause for a moment of re-fuelling.

Mairi with a Wilting Pumpkin listens to the neighbouring children as they chirp out their knock knock jokes or, as Rebecca gave us, a hearty rendition of You Canny Fling Your Pieces Oot a 20 Story Flat ... one of Glasgow's (numerous) best loved street/folk songs!

Monday, 1 November 2010


Lowly Worm, a character in the Richard Scarry children's books of the 1970s, gave me my first, ever, real joy when reading children's books. If these books had been around when I was a child in the late 40s and into the 50s I wonder if I would have been more of a 'reader'?

Basically, I am not a reader. As a child you would never find me curled up with a book transported into some Fairyland Otherworld.

Nevertheless, I was read to as a child. A A Milne's Winnie the Pooh with its black and white drawings by E H Shepherd comes to mind. My mother loved this book. She was an avid reader and there were always books in the house. As an older primary school child I recall having Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames books but I am afraid Anne of Green Gables, for example, never quickened my pulse. Libraries were available both at school and in the community but I was never one to be drawn into them except, perhaps, for some project that had to be researched.

I know that I cannot be bothered with recipe books that do not have coloured pictures so I think one reason - apart from the fact that I prefer to be busy 'doing' things than sitting down - that I am not a book-y person is that I need colour. Full stop. That means that the book has to really engage me if it is a novel or similar sort of book. Many times I will lay a book aside having tried my best to get into it.

So I am re-discovering the Richard Scarry books that I read to my own children in the 1970s. I now read them to my grandchildren. And it is great fun! We spend as much time trying to locate Lowly Worm in the drawings as we do following the storyline.

They are so imaginative! I pour over the drawings laughing at the nonsense activities that Huckle, Gorilla Bananas, Sergeant Murphy and the rest get up to.

Here is Lowly Worm helping Alastair scrape out a pumpkin in readiness for the guisers coming to our door at Hallowe'en.


Richard Scarry, What Do People Do All Day?, HarperCollins Children's Books, 2005. First published 1968. ISBN 13: 978 0 00 718949 6