Monday, 31 January 2011


As Shakespeare would say: the tide is on the turn. We watch the news each day wondering how events are going to unfold. Former students and friends of many years are the reason we worry along with them. Who knows where some of them are now? Perhaps they are the grey-haired members of the thousands turning out with their placards. Tomorrow they want it to be a million!

Sources: BBC news and Wikipedia.

Friday, 28 January 2011


I have just finished reading this book by Alexander McCall Smith. Like a box of Belgian chocolates I know I am going to enjoy every morsal set in the 355 pages of this particular edition.*

I take my time reading his books as I find them thought-provoking. For example, take the following conversation between 2 of the characters, Angus who paints and owns an art gallery and Antonia who is currently occupying her friend's flat/apartment in order to work on her novel:

They are chatting over a cup of coffee:

'How is your book ... your novel going?' Angus inquired politely as he sipped his coffee. 'The one about the Scottish saints?'
Antonia sighed. 'Not very well, I'm afraid My saints, I regret to say, are misbehaving. I had hoped that they would show themselves to be, well, saintly, but they are not. They are distressingly full of human foibles....'

Angus was puzzled. Antonia was talking of her characters as if they had independent lives of their own. But they were her creations, surely, and that meant that they should do their creator's bidding. If she wanted saintly saints, she could have them. 'But you're the author,' he said. 'You can dictate what the people in your book do, can you not?'

And Antonia goes on the explain 'Not at all ... People misunderstand how writers work. They think that they sit down and plan what is going to happen and then simply write it up. But it doesn't work that way.' She explains ... 'The author is not in control. Or, rather, the conscious mind of the author is not in control. And the reason for this is that when we use our imagination we get in touch with that part of the mind which is asking the "what if" questions. And that is not part of the conscious mind.'

And they go on to discuss this some more ending up with Antonia saying 'The unconscious mind is asking questions and then exploring possible outcomes. These then surface in the conscious words, in the same way perhaps as speech surfaces, and become the words that tell the story. And exactly the same thing happens when somebody writes a piece of music or, I should imagine, paints a picture.' [Chapter 102: Antonia Expounds, pages 317 - 318.]

Very thought-provoking! I think he is talking about the nature of creativity here. If I tried to write a story I wonder where it would take me?

I am afraid any attempt I make would probably start and end with a game that wee Ishie and I have made up for ourselves, i.e. You Then Me Storytelling. It goes something like this:

Me: "Once upon a time there was a ..." and then it is over to
Her: "dog and it lived on a farm. One day it walked down the road and saw a ..."
Me: ... and I would think of something outrageous ... and so it would go until
"They all lived happily ever after."


Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland - A 44 Scotland Street novel, Abacus, 2009.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


Who is a wee monkey?

Is it the IKEA monkey that hangs from our stairwell in the hall?

Ishie and Alastair use the space under the bottom landing as a 'cubby' (as they say in Scotland. In my day we called it a 'cubby-hole'.)

No, it is this little person ... Alastair ...

who will be 3 years old next week. Because he has strong chest muscles he has the strength to support himself off the ground. He climbs everywhere and gets himself into all kinds of trouble!

He loves to lock the bathroom door especially if it is grossly inconvenient e.g. public washrooms. Here he is in the downstairs bathroom; what he doesn't know is that there are 2 doors to this bathroom - one of the unforeseen advantages of having it made 'en-suite'.

He was full of mischief on this particular day! To give everyone else 5 minutes peace I sat with him in the bathroom while he played in the sink! (Wasting water? We have a big tap in the sky ... it was worth every minute ... until the next round of high jinx!)

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Had a trip down memory lane last night! I went to hear Johnny Cash's daughter, Rosanne, singing at Celtic Connections. Actually her music and, of course, her dad's music are more what I would call Country and Western - 12 bar blues, rockabilly stuff.

This is the music that was simply part of the (metaphorical) wallpaper when I was growing up. Turn the radio on (CJIB Vernon) and that was pretty well all you would hear. What I find as I get older is that this stuff is still all in my head! I didn't even know that I knew so much of it!

The hall was full and the enthusiastic audience were all there to hear the good ol' Johnny Cash favourites some of which she sang but many were her own compositions. What I used to like (but she didn't sing ... and couldn't really do justice to...) were Ring of Fire and Rock Island Line!

I remember one I used to like was one of his railroad songs: I Walk the Line. So here is an image of the song - just for fun ... and for old times sake!

The photo is of the railway station in Salmon Arm. More photos and information about this station is elsewhere on this blog: here and here.

Monday, 24 January 2011


John was up Ben Lomond at the weekend and took some photos of the city. Because his were rather dark - well, it was night-time! - this is his friend Eddie's night shot of the city of Glasgow [Latitude 55 degrees 50 minutes North] to the south. The city lies in the Clyde Valley on the west side of Scotland.

It really is amazing to live in a city where you can see the hills both to the north and down to the south in the Firth of Clyde. This can be done from certain strategic vantage points, it must be said, e.g. an upstairs window on a good day.

Just after New Year I was out in the snow on a very cold, but sunny, morning. Very icy under foot but great for long shadows and high latitude lighting. It would have been about 2 weeks after the Winter Solstice.

The bench photo above and the 3 following photos are all taken the same occasion down at Kilmardinny Loch, Bearsden.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


Burns Night at chez MacLeod was very much a home-grown affair tonight. Iain elevated the evening when he gave us his theatrical recitation of Burns Address to the Haggis. Here he is addressing that "Great Chieftain o' the Puddin' Race"!

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect sconner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Saturday, 22 January 2011


It is Burns season again. By that I mean the birth of Robert Burns is celebrated at this time of year in Scotland usually in the form of Burns Suppers. After years of Burns Suppers sometimes it is fun to make a change in the meal, the poetry readings and songs. At bigger events it might take the form of a concert or a ceilidh.

Thinking of alternative forms of celebrating Burns often results from listening to dire speakers giving, not so much the Toast to the Bard (you can't go wrong there!) but the Toast to the Lassies; blue jokes, politically incorrect topics make me squirm and, certainly, the speaker is never asked back!

However, I digress ... the gang are coming for their tea tomorrow night (dinner to the rest of you...) so I had a go at a test recipe using haggis. Iain and I thought we'd dig out our Burns poetry book and have a mini-Burns Supper with Mairi, John and the wee ones. Ishie, now 4 years old, is very, very good at language; I wonder if we could teach her to recite To a Mouse? "Wee sleekit, cow'rin' tim'rous beastie. Oh what a panic's in thy breastie!"

I thought I'd make some Sausage Rolls only use haggis instead. If I tell you that the grandchildren help make (and gobble) sausage rolls you can see how easy the task is! Just cut the rectangle of pastry into 3 and place the haggis in the middle. Roll the pastry to join up the sides and you are then left with a long tube. Snip it in sections and place on a baking tray.

Now we are very lucky to get a very tasty alternative to butcher's haggis, namely, vegetarian haggis. It's been around a long time and is basically lentils and oatmeal. Because it, like real haggis, is already cooked, it simply needs to be re-heated in the microwave, or, in this case, placed in the pastry which needs to be cooked fully.

We had a 'guinea pig' visitor to test the results today - late Saturday morning - as Bill dropped in to tell about his (and his wife's) skiing holiday in France. His 84th birthday was yesterday! He came back quite pleased that he made the most of his free ski pass in the Alps!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


According to Google (whose blogsite this is associated) this is the birth date (in 1839) of Cezanne. The picture below is not a rare Cezanne newly discovered; it is the Google Team's artwork making the name GOOGLE in the manner of a Cezanne still life. A Google Doodle. I like it!*

It prompted me to look at some of Cezanne's paintings most of which are now seen everywhere on T shirts and coffee cups not to mention notepaper and post-cards.

This is Cezanne's studio in Aix-en-Provence. It is as he left it when he died in 19 1906. I would love to visit it particularly after looking at the website here.

This photo must be in many a garden planning book! It is his garden - lovely. Just looking at the sunshine makes me feel warm!


* But is it Art?!

Well ... I would rather hang Google's Doodle on my wall than this picture of Cezanne's Pryamid of Skulls.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


I am not a bit television or film person. Yes, I watch the TV news and quite enjoy British historical dramas or mysteries, e.g. Hercule Poirot just now on ITV3.

However something that I could watch again and again are the TED videos on the internet. I view them on my big (Mac) computer (full) screen. What is TED? Well as this website explains:

TED means Technology, Entertainment, Design. It is a collection of talks (speeches) which are videoed [is that a word?]; the selection is here. "The TED talks bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes)." The talk s usually appear to be given in a lecture theatre or conference hall.

TED organisers "make the best talks ... available to the world, for free. More than 700 TEDTalks are now available, with more added each week. All of the talks are subtitled in English, and many are subtitled in various languages. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted."

I browse through the categories and am really impressed with the calibre of presentation. The topics vary greatly but the basic idea is that they must be related to creative thinking and/or original ideas. They range in length from roughly 8 minutes to 20 minutes.

Here is Naomi Klein, she of NO LOGO fame, a person I would love to meet or hear in real life. This is the next best thing!

The title of her talk is Addicted to Risk.

Sunday, 16 January 2011


It has been a long week of diggers excavating earth from the back garden in order to prepare the ditch for laying the foundations for the garage and porch. It has turned out to be a bigger job than was estimated; 50 % more earth had to be dug and then hauled away in Davie's tractor. Added to this it has been raining so it is very muddy. Tough going for the digger.

How do we get into the front door? The same way we get aboard the boat ... or get to the shops at Mallaig Pier... a ladder. Not a problem for us. Here is himself coming home having gone to get some batons to enable the digger to right itself as it is, presently, tipped over stuck in the mud. As I say, it's been a long day. All will be sorted tomorrow.

Himself has 2 pairs of welly boots these days: building site and countryside. We can't move without boots just now.

The current wearing apparel at the front door. The back door is out of commission. There is a sea of mud and great ditches full of water right outside the door.

The back step looking out to the garden.

The digger is off to the right, looking a bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Anyone who has ever had their boat stuck on a reef or go aground knows that it is possible to get it off; it just takes a lot of block and tackle to winch it of off. These fellas are trying to pull the digger out with a long cable hitched to the tractor.

The good news is that the sun came out today and the days are starting to get longer!

Time to pack it in for today. Tomorrow's another day!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


Got a Wake-Up call this morning with an orange light flashing outside the window. It was Davie arriving in his tractor. The orange light sits on top of the cab. 8 am - it was just getting light and fairly livened up the street. Usually it is very quiet with just the school kids heading off about 8:30 am and the occasional car heading off to work.

Here he is hauling away his first load of topsoil away from the back garden. He takes it up to a farm nearby. Hopefully someone will make good use of it for their garden.

A pink sunrise and it turned out to be a lovely spring-like day. Iain and I marked out the curve for the edge of the sitootery - Glasgow word for place where you "sit oot [out]".

By the end of the day about 4 tons of earth had been removed. It's a narrow driveway up the side of the house and Davie did well to reverse his trailer up there each time it had to be loaded up. By 4 o'clock it was getting dark and cold - time to call it a day.

Monday, 10 January 2011


Phase 2 has started: Davie arrived with his digger. Using the tractor from the farm he rolled up the street at first light and off-loaded the digger which is going to level the garage and clear a concreted area plus part of the garden in the back yard.

Toys for the boys; they just love driving this equipment!

The garage is being demolished and a new garage, wider and longer, is to be built in its place. It will be joined to the house by a connecting porch.

The garage is gone and excavation of the back lawn and garden area begins. This drying green is going to be halved and an sit-ootery (place to sit out) built in its place.

The recent snow is thawing so that means work can begin; the brick-layer and builders are scheduled. Hopefully all will continue ... until the next Big Freeze.

Sunday, 9 January 2011


"Oh no it's not!" "Oh yes it is!" ... it's pantomime season and tonight we all went out to the King's Theatre, that grand old theatre in Glasgow, which has seen many a panto in its day, for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. John organised the tickets and would you believe it was the last night!

The pantomimes, and there are several on just now, are very much an institution both here in the city but elsewhere in much of Britain. The theatre was filled with kids and adults who all come knowing they are going to have a good night of banter, sing-along and humour which is always to do with local politicans, shops, places that only Glasgwegians would pick up.

But the best bit was the surprise I got when the part of Prince Charming - or as he was called, Prince Leonardo of Lamlash - turned out to be a name I recalled from the past!

It was 10 years ago when we started our Junior Fiddle orchestra in Bearsden. The children, aged 10 to 16 years were raising money for the BBC charity Children in Need and we were rehearsing for this fund-raising event one Tuesday. Angela (the conductor) took a few minutes out from the practice to explain to the children we were all going to be attending at the BBC studios as ticketed guests (as we had been rasing money for it). She mentioned that Darius was going to be there. In front of the children I said to Angela "Who's Darius?" Well, the kids and Angela hooted with laughter at this! "I thought he was the BBC bear" says I. (No dear ... that's Pudsey....)

It was patiently explained to me that he was a local boy who had recently won a national talent contest. ("Oh-h-h....")

Well I am here to tell you that I have now seen Darius and he is not at all what I had imagined! He's not a wee kid in short pants; he is quite the most dishy fella I have seen in ages and what's more he can sing! He is very tall - which is important in my books - and it seems he is quite an item both in the pop culture as well as the opera world. Watching him swirl his cape as he strutted about the stage saving beautiful Snow White from the dreaded Witch had me absolutely swooning in the aisle!

So I came home floating on a cloud, quite enchanted by the whole evening! Oh-h-h-h to be a teenager again! And it never even occurred to me to go to the stage door for his autograph (which apparently is what our kids in the orchestra did at the BBC event 10 years ago)! Maybe it is just as well; I am sure my children, let alone my grandchildren (!!!) would die of embarrassment!

Saturday, 8 January 2011


Dragon slaying at Doune Castle

Grandpa at home with a new Christmas book from Santa.
(He visits both houses with books...we are very lucky!)

Sticks and stones at Lake of Menteith

Grandma and Ishie at her 4th birthday (Hogmanay) party doing their part-piece with Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer


Photos: Mairi and John

Friday, 7 January 2011


Here's a little leprechaun
Dressed in green
Keeking out the window
Sure to be seen!

His Dad took the picture
I know that ... 'cause
I looked on Facebook
And there he was!

* * *
ALASTAIR (nearly 3 years old)


Tuesday, 4 January 2011


A walk along the Forth and Clyde Canal, especially in winter after the revelry of New Year, is never dull. Adam, Sandy and Lesley and I made a day - well at least a morning - of it taking in the section from Kelvin Lochs on Maryhill to Spiers Wharf and back again. We rounded off our outing with a curry lunch at the Polo Club, Killermont.

The canal had a fair sprinkling of litter, namely the bottles of the Maryhill neds (not educated delinquents) not so much on the path but on the ice which was still quite solid. Post New Year debris....

Undeterred, the ghost of Reverend Walker* could be seen (with some help from Photoshop) as we made our way over the aqueducts (Gairbraid and Oakbank).

And on he skated past someone's party furniture ... or maybe this is the locals getting rid of their one year old suite to upgrade to something more fashionable - apparently a common practice.

Past Firhill Football ground, the home of Partick Thistle and on to Spiers Wharf taking in the panorama view of the city along the way. I think the guid reverend had had enough of Glasgow's kanal kulture and was just going to head on back to where Raeburn found him, namely, Duddingston Loch, near Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh.


The Reverend Robert Walker skating on Duddingston Loch, 1784, by Henry Raeburn
Image: National Galleries of Scotland

Saturday, 1 January 2011


Glasgow is green because the snow has melted! Thank goodness! After a lovely meal last night and a visit next door we were feeling in the need of a good walk to work off the feast of the previous night.

We headed off to the countryside adjacent to where we live and thoroughly enjoyed walking through the woods up to the top of Windy Hill Golf Course.

Here is Iain on the top looking out the city of Glasgow laid out below.

The temperature was a balmy 5 degrees above freezing but the wind was starting to come around from the north, as forecast: we are due another spell of freezing weather. The only thing missing was the primroses and green leaves of spring; very refreshing all the same!

Here is Janus, Roman god of gates and doorways, beginnings and endings, from where we get the month January. He also represents the transition between the countryside and the city. This Photoshoped image should have 2 heads (one facing back to the old year; one facing the new year) but this stone representation only shows the one at this aspect.