Saturday, 24 December 2011


Captain Vancouver discovered a lovely inlet
on the west coast of Canada a mere 200 years ago.

I discovered this wonderful garden across the road
from Alastair and Dawn's house
where we all went last night
to enjoy the Festival of Lights:

The VanDusen Gardens in Vancouver

(o - gremlin ....

Callicarpa dichotoma
purple beautyberry shrub ...
or maybe
it is the Callicarpa americana?

Anyhow it is my
Christmas wreath this year!

(Watch this space!
Now that I have learned about this winter-flowering plant
I plan to grow it
as it is thriving in the same micro-climate
as my Glasgow garden.)

"When you are old
You can wear ... grow purple!"



Just quickly ... some shots taken in Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) earlier this week. Catch you later.....

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Here are some photos of wee Baby Iain. He is doing very well - putting on weight and becoming quite animated.

Saturday, 17 December 2011


Alastair and Dawn's wee boy, Baby Iain David - Indy for short - is now 4 months old and is a wee pet! After seeing him on Skype all these past 4 months we now are delighted to meet the Real Boy! He is very like Alastair when he was that age, i.e. peach fuzz for hair and fair of skin.

Also he is temperamentaly like Alastair (and, apparently, Dawn) in that he is a quiet and contented, an Easy Baby! He is doing all the things that babies of his age do, beginning to grasp things in his hands and will chuckle if tickled or chatted to.

He has completely recovered from his recent eye surgery. The doctors are very pleased him and, of course, they are monitoring him closely. He will be getting a prosthesis for his left eye in January.

So here he is modelling his wee kilt which he is keeping in readiness for the New Year. He has a couple of rather stylish Pirate outfits, plus a Santa Claus red outfit - all necessary rig-outs for the wee celebrity-person that he is!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


And they came from the east bearing gifts for a baby .... Not three wise men but Iain and I preparing to enjoy what he maintains is his favourite view, namely, "looking back".

I found this wonderful painting depicting a caravan heading out, called The Magi Journeying (Les rois mages en voyage) by French painter, James Jacques Joseph Tissot, done between 1886 and 1894; an opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum.

He spent time in Paris and in London. "In 1874, Degas asked him to join them in the first exhibition organized by the artists we call the Impressionists, but Tissot refused." Wikipedia.

Monday, 12 December 2011


In Scotland we get a lot of "weather". Several people have asked me about the bad weather we had last Thursday (December 8th). Apparently it was on the news in various parts of the world that we had a Red Alert for "hurricane" weather. They elaborated that this "storm force" could results in structural damage.

This is where we live on the west of Scotland and yes, the weather reports on television and the radio did put out a Red Alert and, in my opinion, gave very good notice about a gale immanent and that it could reach "storm" force with gusts of "hurricane" force.

This shows the isobars and yes, it did arrive as predicted. Schools were closed. (I was due to collect Ishie at 3 pm which was to be the peak of the bad weather arriving from the sout-west heading east.) So I had her all day ... which was just fine.

People were let off work early (noon or mid-afternoon) to go home (and lose holidays over it). The news programmes showed how they were ready with teams of workers with chain saws to deal with fallen trees, railway staff to clear lines of debris (garden sheds, trampolines etc), several big bridges closed and fire and flood patrols to the ready.

As Ishie and I were having our lunch about 1 pm a strong gust whistled through our garden and took off the corner of the glass-house of our neighbour. We did not sustain any damage other than plastic buckets being blown around the garden. (What often happens is that roof tiles get loosened and then you begin to notice damp patches on the wall or ceiling.)

This wind turbine did not fare so well.

Basically, I felt the weather forecasting and public precautions were well done. After 2 bad winters (more to do with snow and ice) we are getting better at not going out unless absolutely necessary, in really bad conditions. (It only creates problems for public thoroughfares.)

In the past we have been in situations like this - it was July and we were anchored (2 anchors down) in a harbour on the west of Scotland ... so it is kind of "normal"!

On this occasion no major accidents occurred: one school bus was blown over but it was empty at the time and the driver was unhurt.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


I went into the city centre of Glasgow to do a bit of Christmas shopping today. The place was buzzing in a pleasant, seasonal way. My route took me from the train station at Queen Street through an alley to the Buchanan Galleries.

On the steps of the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall was a choir singing. No name and no collection being taken .... very pleasant listening to "Hark the Herald Angels Sing".

The window displays vary: childrens' toys, wanna-be celebrity outfits to the fun and funky. I liked this one in a window of John Lewis's department store. (I used to love gazing into the store windows - Hudson Bay Company or Eatons in the big city- as a kid. I loved it if there were elves hammering at the workbench or Rudolph's red nose blinking on and off!)

The Salvation Army were out today in Buchanan Galleries as I had a coffee and mince pie up on the cafe level listening to their carols. Again I have many memories of small groups of Salvation Army playing or singing carols every Christmas.

One particular memory is of visiting a home for unwed mothers that they had in Vancouver somewhere out near Grace Hospital (Shaughnessy area) as I recall. A sister of a friend was there just before her baby was due. That would have been 1963 - 64. To think of it now... the present generation simply would not believe what it was like to be an unwed mother in those days! (Come to think of it you never even hear that phrase used any more!) And it was the Salvation Army who provided a practical solution to a big social problem.

The lights on Buchanan Street highlighted the Victorian buildings in the late afternoon as people headed home.

Friday, 9 December 2011


'Tis the season of Christmas carols and concerts. Christmas is particulary busy for those who have been practicing all season for their seasonal choir or orchestra performance dates looming ahead.

This man's music is being played a lot this week. He is John Rutter and this video is the King's College Choir, Cambridge, singing one of his arrangements: Oh Holy Night.

Our youngsters' orchestra has now had their final concert. This is because, living in Scotland, we get involved with the St Andrews (Patron Saint of Scotland) season the end of November. Therefore, for us, it works to have our final concert early in the season as the children get very busy with their school or community Christmas activities.

Here is one of our youngsters (aged 10 years old) patiently waiting in rehearsal. (They rehearse from 6 - 7 pm and it makes for a long day.)

This is our practice "room" which is local and easy to get to for all the children.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


Now that the yachting publication is away to the printers it is time to turn to Christmas preparations. It is like finishing exams; a weight is lifted off and I float to more pleasurable activities and also attend to things which were, of necessity, neglected.

I am quite please with the new working arrangement re. the 12 page publication now done at a graphics outfit. I simply send the material along and check over the proofs. It means a lot less eye strain for me and also I get to turn my attention to more creative stuff e.g. articles, notices, photographs.

First thing to do is bake some shortbread. It was very wet for days on end, so nothing for it but to get stuck in to the baking. Also Ishie comes after school so it gives me a "project" for her (cutting out cookies).

Ishie unpacked the Christmas decorations. Not having a tree to hang things on we did the next best thing - hung the (Canadian Tyre outside) lights of 110 volts on the clothes pulley and plugged them into the transformer under the sewing table (which runs my mother's Bernina sewing machine).

The first mail has arrived. I make a ritual of sitting down with a cup of tea and a letter opener and take my time reading the cards and perhaps circular letters, poems, etc that get enclosed.

Ishie walks around the house giving orders to herself about where things could be draped. "Now I think the best idea is to put it here but if you don't like it you can change your mind." I see a headmistress or hospital matron in the making.

We have now had our first fall of snow. However, this year, especially after the last two years, we and the public works department are much better prepared for it!

Sunday, 27 November 2011


Last night I attended the Clyde Cruising Club's Annual Prizegiving and Dinner Dance. This yachting organisation is one of the few groups of people who are still running these big events.

This year it was in the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow's city centre. This big hotel is typical of the ones built in the early days of railway travel. Last year it had an expensive refurbishment and it really is lovely! Modern hotel ballrooms can really be a bit like dining and dancing in an airplane hanger; not this place. It was tastefully decorated to highlight the Victorian elegance of the building.

Furthermore it is located in the Central Station itself so I was able to travel to it by train and not have to go out into the lashing rain and high winds tonight by simply walking through the concourse. I don't know the cost of the rooms or conference arrangements but I was very impressed with the service, food, and all the facilities.

One of the winners of the photography competition was Shona who gave me permission to print this photo (which is done as a cut-out). It was my favourite of all the photos submitted.

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Here's Baby Iain now fully recovered from his operation. He certainly has emerged a star from having had his left eye removed 2 weeks ago. Friends and relations of Dawn and Alastiar have been sending him rather fetching pairs of dark glasses with which to pose for his (many) photo-opportunities!

Iain will be receiving an artificial eye in January. One of the cancer charities in Vancouver is offering to help pay for half of the cost of this.

We are now getting over the shock of all that Dawn and Alastair have had to deal with. Friends have been most kind and understanding. As one young mother from the children's orchestra that I am involved with pointed out "He will be all the more precious because of what has happened to him." Quite so.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


I have spent much of the day, indeed week, preparing material for the yachting publication that I (voluntarily) put together. There have been some stunning photos coming in and all by amateurs taken on their digital cameras.

Recently a decision was made to move to a different firm to produce this 12 page A4 publication as the previous printer went out of business. (It is folk like me that who do this work for nothing on their Macs at home that are bringing about continuing the demise of the printing industry.)

Well, I am absolutely astonished at how technology has moved on! I now send images and text to a graphics outfit and they do all the work (that I used to do on QuarkXpress which, I gather, no one uses any more).

It means less eye strain for me and they do a hugely better job, e.g. we are now doing full colour and lots of clever graphic stuff.

A couple of hours of having dragged and dropped files in Dropbox - another form of very helpful technology - and the whole job was turned around with a draft proof back to me as a pdf file.

We are not finished yet but while I wait for the last of the material to come (AGM minutes) here is a lovely photo a friend, coincidentally, sent me today. I think the photo is a Fyffe boat Hallowe'en which was on the Clyde in 2008.

So instead of hours of close reading and cropping images Iain and I are heading out for the evening for dinner with friends. The hostess is a wonderful cook! Once, when I asked her how she enjoyed a cookery course she attended several years ago, she responded "M-m-m-m ... I could teach them a thing or two!" Quite so!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


I enjoyed a discussion on the radio (Andrew Marr on Monday) where artists were collected together to look at the role of Art and Politics. One inevitable topic was about trying to find a solution to the present (dire!) economic situation.

The discussion was about the difficulties of sorting it out, i.e. everyone has their own solution.

Evona Blazwick (art gallery person) ..... talked about how people are trying to deal with the whole history of capitalism, how it is not like the Civil Rights Movement of the things are much less black and white; of how "we are in a land of euphemisms ... in a place where language has abstracted the issues ..."

Rory Bremner (comedian) highlighted the fact that we are told that we are stuck in this situation; there also are no alternatives... It's like the rabbit that has been caught in the headlights in the middle of the road: what do you do with it?

George Osbourne says: "Let's bang it on the head."

Vince Cable says: "Let's take it to the vet and do it humanely."

Ed Milliband says: "We have to put it down but let's do it slowly."

Chris Huhne says: "It's not my fault. The wife was driving!"

Photos are from the garden today.

Sunday, 20 November 2011


Today is Sunday and the family are coming for dinner. I reached into the cupboard for some wine and found a bottle of my favourite Fitou and noticed that it wasn't an unopened bottle ... ooops... nothing for it but to check that it was still OK as it must have been there for many months!

Well ... one thing leads to another ... While boiling the lamb bones for the soup I headed out to the garden and picked, quite literally, the last rose of the summer. It was quite beautiful! and the perfume is lovely! (For months I have been looking at bashed and pathetic roses ..!)

Then waiting for the pie in the oven I doodled around taking photos of this lovely rose. It has got to keep me going just now as we head into the darkest of the winter days.

As is the way of things, I got side-tracked looking for some music, i.e. sheet music, on the internet. I found what I was looking for, namely, Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Simon and Garfunkle. The trick is to save the pages as pdf files and then printed out the given page, I got a perfectly useable copy (about 3/4 page size). Who puts this stuff on the web? Answer: The Chinese (I think from the Chinese symbols above the title).

Friday, 18 November 2011


The weather has been mild all week so it has been good for getting out to the garden or the countryside.

These are some recent photos of the grand-children, taken by John last weekend when they were out in the Blane Valley which is a couple of miles from us on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Alastair (3 and 3/4 years) very much a running, jumping, climbing boy

Ishie (nearly 5 years old)

I collect her after school every Thursday and we spend time together until dinnertime. Today she was humming (not entirely in tune!) repeatedly "There's no room in the inn ... there's no room in the inn"!

Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond are in the distance

Sunday, 13 November 2011



PART 1: This is Remembrance Sunday. There are ceremonies taking place at 11 am at cenotaphs and other places of public gathering all over the country. (Two minutes' silence was also observed last Friday, November 11th. I was in a church hall at the time.)

Iain's father was in the First World War and survived. He lied about his age to get himself accepted into the Scottish regiment: 4th battalion, Seaforth Highlanders. Iain tells the story that he learned from an old man some years ago. This man was his platoon sergeant and told the story about looking for a man who could shoe horses. "Is there a farrier here?" "Yes" said Iain's father. "Right. Come with me" ... and he missed the Battle of the Somme.

He is on the far right, front row. There is no date nor location on the back of the photograph which is actually a postcard. On the back, which is blank, is printed in large lettering "Carte Postale".

This is another postcard. It has no title. I think he is in the second row seated in front of the short man in the back row. Again no information about place (with Bell tents) or date. The stamp is British. Postmark is Kingussie.

The note to his mother reads "Dear Mother, I hope you are well. I am well here and am enjoying myself fine. I am writing this PC asking you to send me that pair of trousers I left. I want to get them before I go so that I will have the suit. If you can't send it by return don't send it at all as I won't get it before I leave. Yours, Donald"

............ move on 90 years to this man's great-grandson (who has the same surname) .............

Part 2: It was exactly a week ago that we waited anxiously for the outcome of the operation that had to be done on our wee grandson's eye. Doctors in Vancouver successfully removed his left eye due to a retinoblastoma. Only one eye has been affected.

Like Churchill's battle command in his bunker ... it is time to re-group.

Saturday, 12 November 2011


While the focus of the media is on the European Union, particularly Italy's rising debt, the rest of us go about our daily lives. To that end Maggie and I headed to Stockholm, Sweden for 3 days to visit friends and do a bit of shopping.

One advantage of living in "Europe" broadly speaking is that travel is so much easier than it used to be. Borders are easy to cross and there are these low-cost airlines operating (often using former military airfields) which have established a whole new economy related to movement of ordinary people back and forth. We flew RyanAir from Edinburgh to Skavsta (1.4 hours' bus ride from Stockholm) and it was absolutely great both ways. Yes, you have to obey the rules about luggage size and weight and have all your internet booking print-out in order but ... for a low-cost airline the 2 hour flight could not be faulted.

I am basically a Northern Latitude person. Apart from the lovely people that we know in Sweden I like the fact that I am simply "part of the wallpaper". Maybe I have Scandinavian genes somewhere in my background? Being tall and of light of skin and hair I don't stand out as a tourist. In the street I look just like all the other women. And I love Swedish cuisine: pickled herring, rågbröd (rye bread), cod roe paste and, of course, all those trees!

I took these photos on my iPhone... amazing! The time of day was 3:30 pm with the most glorious golden pink sky as the sun set.

The last of the sun just hitting the top of the clock-tower of Saint Jacob's Church (not far from Marimekko - my most favourite shop!)

Walking to the Gamla Stan (Old Town) from the city centre over the Riksbron Bridge.